“People see what they want to see and what people want to see never has anything to do with the truth.” - Roberto Bolaño
Perception: According to Merriam Webster
1a : a result of perceiving : OBSERVATION
1b : a mental image : CONCEPT
2 obsolete : CONSCIOUSNESS
3a : awareness of the elements of environment through physical sensation
3b : physical sensation interpreted in the light of experience
4a : quick, acute, and intuitive cognition : APPRECIATION
4b : a capacity for comprehension
Perception is what you perceive as being true. Doesn’t necessarily believe it is. But that’s your reality. And according to Thanos, “reality… is often disappointing.”
Okay, there as your 20 seconds of conventional.
Listen, I cannot tell you how to perceive someone. There are societal reasons why we as people place ideals on other folks. However, for a brief moment. Let’s say, we throw our misconceptions about people out the window and learn them for who they are? Would the world be better? Would the workplace be better?
Think about it and get back to me. firstname.lastname@example.org
According to EduCBA, there are 3 types of perceptual errors that we make in the workplace.
Halo Effect: This is when a single trait is the basis of how you view a person. That singular trait will cast a shadow over all other traits that person may possess. For instance, you are at work and see that a new staff member has been hired. You get a good view and from what you can see this new person is well dress, well spoken, but seems… snooty. You decide to avoid them if need be, keep interactions short because, well, you don’t need that kind of unapproachable vibe in your space.
Stereotypes: This one is self-explanatory. We stereotype people every day. And quick side-note: some of you all’s stereotypes are downright racists, misogynistic, intolerant and you need to do better. If your first thought when you see someone of Middle Eastern decent is that they are a terrorist, or if you see someone of Hispanic/Latinx decent and immediately assume they are not here legally, or if you see someone of African American decent and you think they are on Welfare, expect a handout, etc. you are racist and basing stereotypes on racists fallacies. This particular error has gotten worse in the last few years or so due to our current political climate… Not just here in the U.S. but world-wide.
Projection: This one is a little tricky… essentially, this is you projecting yourself onto others. According to EduCBA, this happens more so in interviews. The prospective candidate makes a statement like, “my weakness is that I tend to take on too many tasks,” the hiring manager may also feel that this is their weakness as well and may feel the need to hire this person over others who… might actually be better equipped for the job at hand. I say it’s tricky because, while this is a great way for mentor/mentee relationships to blossom, it can lead to the idea that favoritism is taking place. There is nothing wrong with like-mindedness to an extent… However, the projection of yourself onto someone else can cause you to put up blinders to their faults.
Now, I’m not saying there are not positive outcomes with these types of perception. I’m just pointing out the issues they can cause. Especially, in a workplace environment. It can cause tension, make things uncomfortable. You name it.
Perception guides you and how you interact with others. And trust me, people can tell how you feel about them based on the words you use, phrases, body language (not giving eye contact is a HUGE give away), and more.
So, how do we solve this?
For starters, check yourself. You can only be accountable for you and your thoughts. If you see yourself innately associating someone, you’ve never met, with a trait or behavior that may not be remotely true. Stop yourself and maybe question why societal norms cause us to think this way to begin with. Maybe even dig a little deeper and question how you carry yourself in the workplace and how others may perceive you. Do you have R.B.F? Are you a Type-A person in the mornings? (quick note if you are the person that is super happy early in the morning, just know, those of us who aren’t morning people and need 3 shots of espresso in one coffee cup…… generally don’t care about anything until around 10:30 am-11:30 am… just a tip)
Be more open-minded. Be more inclusive. THIS is why we have diversity in the workplace. To get a group of different but hardworking and maybe in like-minded people to achieve a goal as a unit. Where one coworker may be weak another coworker by be equally as strong. Besides, we don’t have to like each other to get the job done.
And by communicate, I don’t mean walking up to your coworker who just got her hair done and asking, “is it yours?” or “can I touch it?” NEVER IN LIFE IS IT OK TO BE THAT PERSON. And as soon as you feel the words about to leave your lips or you hand raise to go and touch…. ABORT MISSION. ABORT. ABORT. ABORT.
What I mean by communicate is just that. Talk to them. Get to know them on a professional level. Be genuine in your inquiries about their weekend. In order for walls and barriers created by false realities to be broken, you have to go into it with proper communication skills. You may find that the guy you perceived as a jerk, is actually the most kind and helpful person in the office.