Perception vs. Reality in the Workplace

Communication is the most important aspect of a healthy workplace perception.

Communication is the most important aspect of a healthy workplace perception.

Perception: the way you interpret what happens around you. Reality: what happens around you. These two are not always in harmony with one another, because your perception is influenced by a mixture of your beliefs, insecurities, ideals and experiences. You can see how easily you might misinterpret something in the workplace if you allow your perception to take control in an emotional way. Considering other points of view before you go off the rails is crucial to the goodwill you need among your colleagues and for your reputation as a stable career woman.

Don't Judge

Perception can be dangerous if you blind yourself to other points of view. For example, say a coworker comes in late to the office a few times, flustered, coffee in hand, and asks others to "catch her up" on what's going on. You may perceive this as a sign of disrespect, entitlement and laziness. However, you're only seeing the picture from your own angle. Imagine if you were late as well, and you saw this coworker in the parking lot. The two of you would bustle into the office together, and you'd be aligned in your similar situation. Your resentment toward this late coworker might actually stem from your own sense of entitlement having arrived on time. Instead of generating negative feelings such as annoyance or judgment, consider times when you've been late or disorganized because something was inhibiting your focus. Trust that a supervisor will take care of real problems with employees, and try not to let your perception of your own work ethic cause you to cast negativity on those who operate differently.

Stay Unemotional

Emotions are beautiful things in interpersonal relationships, but they don't belong in the workplace. Why? Because emotions defy logic, and in a goal-oriented workplace, logic is the system that keeps everyone focused on the task at hand. Attaching emotions to workplace situations can cause your perception to deviate from reality. Here's an example: Say a co-worker tells you that your reports need more work. If you react emotionally, you might take this comment personally and become embarrassed, ashamed or defensive. After all, your work is a representation of your skills and abilities. However, the reality is that a workplace is designed to create an effective product or service. Your coworker isn't belittling you, she's trying to make the product or service better because that's her job. If you take it emotionally and personally, you're not doing your job, which is to make your work the best it can be. Let reality set in by refocusing on your goal -- to produce a great finished product, not to prove yourself to your colleagues.

Get Feedback

Sorting your perception from your reality sometimes can't be done alone, so get a second opinion when something truly bothers you. This is best done with a colleague you trust to listen and give you an honest opinion. Use "I" statements, meaning that you phrase the problem using "I feel like" or "I think that" rather than blaming someone directly. Odds are, your colleague can help you sort out the problem and recognize your own insecurities from true conflicts in the workplace.

Mix Things Up

One perception skewer than can creep up on you at work is boredom. If you grow bored or burned out on your work, it can cause all sorts of negative feelings. For example, you may grow to believe that your work is unimportant, or that you're being micromanaged or "looked down upon." Keep shifting your routine to avoid boredom. Communicate with colleagues, take time away from work at home by escaping in a good novel and get adequate sleep. These three things can help you resist the urge to get down on your job and start restlessly looking for a way out. A little breather or a new routine can help you refresh your work day and stay grateful for your job.

 

About the Author

Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.

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