Perception vs. Reality in the Workplace

Perception vs. Reality in the Workplace
Communication in the workplace is very important. Often times words and actions are often misconstrued by peers and management. What you said or what you did may not be perceived exactly how you meant it to be. For example, you may feel you’re being helpful while the recipient feels you’re being extremely condescending. It’s often said that we don’t see ourselves as others may see us. Unfortunately reality often has little to do with your words or actions.

Try this exercise with one or two of your trusted peers that you know will be honest with you. Take a piece of paper and write down how you see yourself. Do you see yourself as a hard worker or creative? Do you see yourself as warm and friendly? At the same time ask your co-workers to write down how they see you. Do not share your list and do not look at their list while they are writing. Once both lists are finished, compare the two side by side. Do you notice any similarities or differences? Does your reputation match how you perceive yourself?

After seeing how others see you, there are actions you can decide to take. For example, you can listen to the perceptions that others have of you and make changes. You can replace potentially offense behavior with something that works better. If there is a particular perception which you are adamant about being incorrect, work on changing your actions to bring the perceptions in line with who you really are. For example, if co-workers see you as uncaring, but you know that you are a caring person, show your caring side. The perception may not change overnight, but it will eventually. The last choice that you can make is to do nothing at all. You may not feel that any change is necessary, but at least you’re aware of how others see you. The choice of how you react is up to you.

Keep in mind that it’s normal to be defensive when others do not agree with your perception of yourself, especially if the feedback is unexpected or totally brutal. It’s important to ask yourself is there even a grain of truth in what you perceive to be criticism. There is also the temptation to belittle or discredit the other person’s perception of you. This is would not be a good action to take. Regardless of how you may personally feel about the situation, when it comes to communication, reality is the perception of others.

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