In my role as consultant I often find myself in the middle. Between employee and supervisor, leader and leader, broker and company, CEO and everyone else. I can be counselor, coach and peace maker all in the same day, sometimes in the same conversation. Being an introvert (INFJ for you Myers Briggs types) I will dwell on these conversations in my mind for days. I will replay everything that was said, get mad at myself for things I should have said and thought about later and try to dissect the reason the parties said or acted the way we did. I’m amazed at how often their reaction came down to one thing.
Their perception of the situation.
More importantly, how different their perception of the situation was from the other party. Let me give you an example.
In an effort to help an employee work better with a supervisor they both agreed to sit down with me and talk about where they were both struggling with the relationship. The employee had a pretty common complaint in workplaces today, that the manager was a micro-manager. I asked the employee to give an example which he did. The manager had a very different version of that example. They remembered that situation so differently I had to make sure we were talking about the same incident. We were.
Scope of knowledge about the bigger picture.
All things that can affect how we see, think about and remember a situation after the fact. The great divide created by different ways of perceiving a situation can be detrimental to relationships.
And yet, neither are wrong.
The only way to bridge this great divide is to communicate. I tell leaders all the time to over communicate. When they think everyone understands the why, what, who and where, explain it to them again and ask them to repeat it. Not in a condescending, micro-managing kind of way, but in a way that allows employees to express any concerns, ask any questions or ensure they understand exactly what is being asked and why.
In the example that the employee gave, had the leader checked for understanding and allowed the employee to ask questions, the perception of micro-managing would have gone away. Had the employee simply asked the questions to ensure they understood, the leader wouldn’t have felt like they had to intervene which then gave that perception of micro-managing.
Head spinning yet?
I’m sure we’ve all heard the expression that “perception is reality”. I know I’ve spouted it a time or two in my career. I’m not sure I buy that anymore. I don’t think it’s as black and white as that. I think a better statement would be that “your perception is your reality” but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s another persons.
As though we needed another reason to communicate more often and well.