Today I continue my extended series on managers using perceptions to manage. Have you ever had a manager who leads feedback with “There’s a perception that. . .”? As in, “There’s a perception that your projects don’t come in on time.” Or “There’s a perception that you don’t know how to manage your budget.”
In previous articles, I’ve listed 12 reasons this behavior should be removed (here, here, here, and here). If you find this entertaining reading that may resonate for both employees and managers alike.
So let’s continue this list, this time focusing on what managing using perceptions reveals about the manager.
13. The manager is exposed to similar tactics, indirect and direct back to the manager
The manager says, “There’s a perception that you don’t deliver.” This encourages the employee to think (in most cases) or say (in fewer cases) in response to the boss a similar kind of feedback:
“OK, there’s a perception that you’re a terrible boss and don’t know what you’re doing.” Or perhaps, “There’s a perception that you don’t know how to give performance feedback.”
By using the “there’s a perception that” line, it essentially trains the employees to think and use back at you the same damaging rhetoric being used on them. In fact, upon training the employee to think perceptions first, this is probably the thing in the employee that will most likely change.
The employees will start creating “perceptions” about the manager, and most likely they won’t be directly to the manager. Instead, they will extend the negative and difficult perceptions around the workplace about the manager.
Here’s where employees can do this:
1. One-one-discussions with the manager’s manager:
“There’s a perception that my manager is having a lot of difficulty managing the team.”
2. On 360-feedback forms:
“There’s a perception that my manager struggles a lot.”
3. To each other:
“There’s a perception that our manager isn’t comfortable giving feedback, no matter what we do or what results we get.
4. During exit interviews:
“There’s a perception that this is the worst-run team in the organization.”
Using the “There’s a perception that. . .” line reveals that you are a manager who wants to receive feedback via the veil of perceptions.
14. It demonstrates that the manager is not committed to the feedback and changing behaviors
When a manager uses the “there’s a perception that” line, it indicates that the manager himself is not sure as to what is true and what is not true. The manager is ultimately non-committal to the actual events, yet still feels comfortable giving “feedback.” This reveals the manager as a “gutless wonder” (thanks, “Strictly Ballroom!” for this term) who wants something to change, but is not committed to that change. As such, this reduces trust with the employee. Without the manager commitment to changing the behavior, this means that the manager will likely undermine either the changed behavior, or the unchanged behavior, creating an overall untrustworthy work relationship.
Today I continue my extended series on managers using perceptions to manage the team. Imagine a manager who starts a performance feedback session with “There’s a perception that. . . you don’t actively participate.” Or “There’s a perception that. . . you’ve fallen behind on your work.”
But I have more reasons! Today I examine why positive perceptions are not cited when managers manage perceptions.
10. “There’s a perception that. . .” is rarely used for positive things, underscoring the absurdity of the line
Have you ever noticed that a manager never sits down with an employee and says, “There’s a perception that you deliver on time with high quality and exceptional teamwork”? or “There’s a perception that you bring talents to the group that no one else has.” Or “There’s a perception that you designed and created an infrastructure that increased productivity by 40% and reduced costs by 60%”. Or perhaps a more pedestrian example, “There’s a perception that you’re always on time.”
Hmm. . . as soon as it’s positive things, the “perception” line seems to be unnecessary and weird. . .if the perception of the thing is a the positive thing. Managers who can articulate the positive thing don’t need to add the “There’s a perception that. . .”
11. It twists positive feedback into negative feedback even for positive behaviors and perceptions!
Let’s take a look at the below chart. In it we have an example of a manager giving negative “feedback” and positive “feedback” while inserting the “there’s a perception” line.
Normally, when you give positive feedback on something, it means that you want the employee to keep doing that behavior, or do it with more frequency. But in this chart, you can see that by adding the “there’s a perception” line to the positive feedback, the implication is that something is wrong – that the perception is false in some way and the perception needs to be adjusted to a more realistic perception. (Ironically, when the perception is a negative one, that perception is widely believed to be true.) On top of that, the implication is that the underlying behaviors that created that over-inflated perception also need to be changed so that future perceptions will be the more realistic perception.
So by adding the “there’s a perception” line to a positive behavior, it turns it into a negative perception and a negative behavior. Now the employee has to change both perceptions and the underlying behaviors – on something that is being praised!
In short, it becomes twisted when a positive perception implies that things need to change. Read more
Today, the Manager by Design blog takes a break from discussion about people and team management, and would like to share a guest post I wrote for the Sources of Insight blog. It’s a fun post that harkens back to my Nintendo of America days, when I taught a class on how to be a Game Play Counselor. J.D. Meier challenged me to write an article called “Life Lessons from The Legend of Zelda”, and here is the result!
If you love The Legend of Zelda (and I know you do!), this is a must read!
Using perceptions to manage: Three unintended consequences, or, how a manager can create a gossip culture in one easy step
Today I continue my series on managers managing perceptions, and how attempting this creates difficult situations and doesn’t resolve problems. When I say, “Managing perceptions”, I’m thinking of when a manager attempts to use perceptions as the basis for what is being managed, rather than using observed behaviors to manage the team.
Imagine a manager who attempts to give feedback by saying, “There’s a perception that you are easily excitable” or “There’s a perception that you easily get confused.” That’s using perceptions to manage.
In previous articles, I discuss how this deflects from actual performance and creates confusion as to what is real and not real. In today’s article, I discuss some more unintended consequences of a manager relying on perceptions to manage the team – how it creates an instant culture of gossip.
7. Citing perceptions confirms that gossip, innuendo, and back-biting is acceptable and encouraged, if not the default
When a manager says, “There’s a perception that. . .” it confirms that gossip, innuendo, and back-biting is an acceptable and encouraged behavior, both by employees and the manager. By definition, invoking the perception concept is gossip, since it does not rely on any sort of fact or evidence. The only fact that is confirmed is that there is gossip, innuendo and, most likely, back-biting that is occurring. On top of this, gossip and innuendo is now the default mechanism for understanding what is going on with the team. Read more