The way in which each one of us views the world is different. Though we all live in the same world, we have all tuned our self to look for what we seek. To the extent that we tend to see what we want to see everywhere and in everything. In other words what we look for is what we see.
Our perceptions play a very important role in our interactions at the workplace and life in general. In our everyday life we start to see whatever we are looking for in everything we look at. Each individual person can see the same situation and recount it differently.
For example, if an accident takes place and there are 5 witnesses to it, each one will later give a different description to the same accident. That’s why we tend to see what we are looking for and we often miss what we are not looking for.
The behaviour of people is based on their perception of what the reality is and not on reality itself. It is our perception of the world that is important to us behaviourly, since it is based on that perception that we react to.
The question arises, that after all, what is it influences our perception. It is a combination of factors including our attitude, including any motive we may have plus our experiences as well as expectations. Apart from these the actual situation – whether related to the work situation or the social setup in which we maybe operating.
In life we tend to make judgments about others . How does that take place :
- Based on background, interests and experience people tend to use selective perception to interpret what they see. This would also mean that the behaviour of people is based on the terms of reference they are using to see the situation.
- The halo effect is used very commonly where a person reaches a general impression based on a single characteristic of another person. A persons overall impression of another person, a company , colleagues or even a product maybe influenced by a single quality or even property.
- People also assume that their way of thinking is typical of others as well and they also tend to project the assumption that others will also come to the same conclusions as them. ALL tend to think alike.
- Plus people tend to use a CONTRAST EFFECT which is used to perceive a greater or lesser difference than what really exists. This could be based on the results of a prior or simultaneous experience which they may have gone through.
- Finally, the importance of stereotyping in ones perception where one tends to judge another person on the basis of the group to which they belong is very prevalent. Stereotypes can be positive, negative or even neutral. Further stereotyping based on gender, religion, ethnicity or even occupation is very common on our society.
So, how can we apply the above in our daily life as well as in our sphere of work . Some common but really key areas are :
- Employment processes : Its necessary to be aware that perceptual judgements regarding candidates maybe inaccurate. Therefore it is necessary to have a screening process in place which can take care of biases and help us to make an informed, unbiased and balanced decision.
- Performance Evaluation systems : Its necessary to be aware of the subjective aspects where perception can play a key role. Further the halo effect is also very important and when Managers are evaluating their employees they should take a holistic view of the employee into consideration.
- Ethnic profiling and Stereotyping : Are other areas which may create biases in the minds of managers when dealing with employees. It is essential that managers are aware of these and are not perceived by employees as being biased on the basis of these factors. These factors also play a role in our daily lives, social interactions with friends, colleagues and others .
- Employee Effort : The perception of the effort being put in by an employee quite often varies. An employee’s own assessment vs the managers assessment. Having a mechanism in place to measure this would provide a realistic view . Further in extreme case, a lack of perceived effort may result in terminating services, so being transparent solves many problems. As Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured gets managed.”
Implications for Managers
It is important for Managers to be aware that Individuals behave based not on the way their external environment actually is but, rather, on what they see or believe it to be.
Research shows that for an employee, it is their perception of their work environment, boss, colleagues and their personal situation that will influence their productivity on the job, more than will the situation itself. So ensuring that there is a positive picture being depicted will help to motivate employees to do their best and be ready to go the extra mile in their jobs.
Other key areas which reflect on a Managers own performance include absenteeism, turnover, and job satisfaction which are also reactions to the individual’s perceptions of the working environment in which they operate and their relationships.
Individuals tend to think and reason before they act. Perception can help decision making situations if a manager tends to analyse a situation, is aware of biases, takes a rational and balanced view along with any intuitive reflections and is open to listening to others before reaching a decision.
Anyone can change the world:
all it takes is a shift in perception.