I’ve come to believe our perception at work and life in general carries a great deal of importance.
Many years ago while striving to climb the “corporate ladder to success”, my boss asked me to meet with him privately, in a very serious, foreboding tone of voice.
I immediately scoured my mind for reasons, or any of my actions that may have prompted this out of the ordinary request, fearing something terrible had occurred unknowingly to me, and walked into his office with more than a heightened sense of apprehension.
We had always gotten along well on what I considered a mutual admiration level. I will admit our egos bordered on arrogance, if not embraced it, which often resulted in less than a compassionate approach in dealing with peers and subordinates.
Perception Lessons from My Boss
My boss started by reminding me of an incident that happened the day before. I was giving a tour of my department to visiting executives touting our innovations in material handling and repackaging techniques of returned soft goods.
The objective of the efforts was to make these returned items look brand new to our customers when resold. We worked for a large national retailer’s catalog distribution center.
I knew this was another opportunity for me to strut my stuff and impress important people who would likely have influence on my upward mobility.
During the tour, however, a seemingly minor event happened. One of the new machines used in heat-sealing the packaging was not working properly, which I thought was a potential land mine to my presentation.
Along with us on the tour was the maintenance associate assigned to maintaining these devices. I felt angry that he was responsible for sabotaging the tour, either through his incompetence or lack of intelligence in understanding the importance of the event.
Why couldn’t everyone have the same commitment to excellence that I believed I had and ensure everything would go off without a hitch? I pulled him aside and let him know in a harsh tone how displeased I was. My boss was the only one who heard this exchange.
That day, in his office, my boss pointed out to me the error of my ways in treating this individual, which of course was wrong. He then surprised me and told me he was sending me to a weeklong sensitivity-training session out of state. He had attended this a few years earlier, not surprisingly knowing his personality, and admitted he had had his own incidents which caused him to be sent there.
A Course in Perception
Imagine spending a week in a campus setting, with individuals from around the country who all had similar intelligence, arrogance and powerful egos, useful to organizations in many respects, but detrimental if not under control, forced to work together.
Every minute of our time, from early morning to mid evening, was scheduled with lectures from PHd’s and highly charged group interactive sessions.
By the end of the week most of us had gone through a transformation. We learned to understand that no matter how we perceive ourselves, and believe how we are perceived by others, it remains utterly false.
We slowly began to grasp in our small group sessions how others really perceive us through face-to-face feedback, which at times was brutally critical.
I noticed the folly in my ways after this week-long retreat. I acknowledged that the fault in the machine could have been a natural malfunction rather than a human error and that the maintenance associate may not be the one to blame.
In short, I realized that my mindset entirely depended on how I perceived my co-workers at work.
Realizing how one is really perceived, and what characteristics of one’s personality caused those negative opinions was certainly a wake-up call for me.
Accepting this as the truth required us to be honest with ourselves, and we were taught that unless you have a revelation of something about you that you don’t like, you can’t change it.
The whole goal of the training was to understand those negative aspects of our being and the subsequent behavior and experience a revelation about the importance of perception at workplace and make a conscious effort to change.
Before you think you know how you are perceived, you need to have the courage to talk to those you trust, show your honesty and faith in them to be truthful to you.
You may not like what you hear, but if you have a revelation that helps you change to be the person you want to be perceived as, your life will be enriched, and your friendships will have new meaning in their depth and sincerity.
Do you have a personal story or tip that changed your perception toward a colleague?
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