When I worked as a Customer Support Manager for Oracle, my boss taught me that perception is reality. What you know to be true and what others know to be “true” are not always the same thing, and could differ far more than we think. This lesson came about because I had been a Technical Support Analyst and had gotten promoted to Manager. So the people I had been friends with were now my employees, and I had to draw a fine line between friendship and a professional relationship so that the perception of possible favoritism towards my team was as small as possible. There was never going to be a way to remove that judgment entirely, and I worked hard to show everyone I worked with how valued they were.
As a leader in an organization, you have a lot of closed-door meetings as you work towards the company's future. And if you're not communicating with the rest of the team about the direction the company is moving, goals you're making, and how you're progressing, and what changes are coming, people are going to start to talk. Rumors will get started, and it’s not very likely that they’ll match what your leadership team is working on. It could be like the movie Office Space when everyone frets about losing their jobs because Bill Lumbergh brings in The Bobs.
The best way to make sure that people’s perceptions match reality is to walk your talk. If you talk about open door policies and direct communication yet don’t make yourself available to your team and reply to their questions in a roundabout, confusing way, you aren’t upholding the values you’re telling your team you believe in. When you say one thing and do another, you’re alienating those around you and ensuring that your reality and their reality are not aligned. Not upholding the values you talk about causes a drop in employee morale and effectiveness because there’s no clear message about what they can do to help the company thrive. If people aren’t sure what the right path to take is, often they won’t take any route at all to avoid making a mistake.
Take time today to think about your reality and how those around you might perceive it. If there’s misalignment, what actions can you take to ensure that everyone is on the same page, rumors don’t get started, and satisfaction stays high? Reach out to me if you’re having difficulty with this exercise or you wish to change your reality before ensuring everyone sees it the way you hope.