Are You the Leader Your Employees Perceive?
It isn’t a nice reality, but people judge their leaders. Sometimes the actions and intents of leaders get skewed by the way people view them. While managing perception in the workplace is more of an art that cannot be described, there are a few generic perceptions that leaders should safeguard against. These perceptions are created regardless of well-intent, so checking your interactions with others periodically is a good idea.
Perception Management for Leaders
The Blind Compliment Machine
One prevalent perception that sometimes pops up is that of leaders blindly complementing their followers. Appreciation is an extremely useful tool in motivating others, but sometimes it can be misconstrued and have a reverse effect. This often happens when leaders pour out too many compliments regardless of whether they are well deserved, but may occur in other situations too. This perception is bad because it diminishes the ability of a leader to use compliments and appreciation to motivate a workforce. It also creates a picture of an insincere and fake leader.
Dealing with it: Firstly, avoid general compliments and praise. These are often viewed as copy-and-paste compliments that inherently disregard the actual individual. Instead, tailor compliments to specific workers and cite examples of good work where possible. Secondly, as much as possible, avoid complimenting one worker in front of another. Compliments are effective when they are personal and scarcely seen on others. Avoid being seen as a compliment-junky when you spread compliments openly throughout the workplace.
The Time Killer
When work is handed in, but a follow-up is not provided, employees will start to question the necessity of that work in the first place. While the work completed, in all honesty, is vital and important, failing to make that clear will make it seem otherwise. The perception of a Time Killer happens when leaders either give seemingly useless tasks to workers or when they fail to provide feedback to the work already handed in. This perception is bad because it either makes the worker feel useless or it makes them frustrated at the supposed waste of their time. This is likely to hamper their future performance.
Dealing with it: When it comes to handing out task, try to briefly explain the necessity of it. If the task is tedious, break it up into smaller chunks where possible and let the employee hand it in as such. This way, tasks given out will be seen as less useless and less frustrating, even if they are in reality. Another way to avoid being painted as a Time Killer is to follow-up any work, even if it means a brief response. That way, the work is acknowledged to a certain degree instead of being viewed as redundant.
As Gustave Flaubert put it, “There is no truth. There is only perception”. Your intended actions may differ from how they are actually seen by your followers. These two perceptions –The Blind Compliment Machine and The Time Killer –are prevalent in the workplace and should be guarded against where possible. They may not seem to have much of an effect on your performance as a leader, but their consequences are widespread and long-term, albeit intangible.