Using perceptions to manage: Three unintended consequences, or, how a manager can create a gossip culture in one easy step

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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