<img src="https://certify.alexametrics.com/atrk.gif?account=mZnsn1QolK1052" style="display:none" height="1" width="1" alt="">

Perception vs. Reality - Effective Workplace Communication

FOR-BUSINESSMarketing, sales, general managers, CEO’s, CFO’s CIO’s CHRO’s are all pretty much in agreement that one of the most difficult challenges every business faces is effective communication. To take that a step further, every organization is made up of a grouping of unique individual employees who in fact are the carriers of this challenge. Most of us have no idea how others perceive us. We don’t know how they feel or react to us because they generally don’t tell us. What do they do? They tell everyone else but you. Most often it is not what we say, but rather how we say it that either causes the problem or brings us success.

When we communicate with others, whether in a face-to-face conversation, a phone call or an email, we generally are unaware of how they perceive us at that moment. Of course most of us have heard the adage, “a person’s perception of you is their reality.” In other words, it doesn’t really make any difference what you intended for your audience to hear, what matters is what their perception is of what they heard you say. Take for example the following conversation between a job candidate and a hiring manger during an interview.

Candidate: “I noticed in your posting for this position you are looking for someone who has SAP experience, excellent numerical and analytic skills and has had experience in health care. Well, I would be the ideal candidate for this position. For the past 4 years, I have been a Business Analyst for McKesson, a worldwide leader in the healthcare industry. I have delivered an enterprise system upgrade using SAP and brought the project in under budget and on time.”

So you say, this sounds pretty good, right? Whoa, not so fast. What did the hiring manager hear? What was going through the hiring manager’s mind? How about “this person is a bit arrogant. How would she know she is my ideal candidate when she doesn’t really know our company, doesn’t know me, doesn’t know the job and doesn’t know the other candidates I am interviewing?” Maybe not so much!

What did the candidate intend? The intention was the candidate had several of the requisite skills/ experiences, but the hiring manger heard something completely different. The perception was one of arrogance as in “how dare that person try to tell me who I would see as ideal for my hiring needs and make my decision for me!”

Another common trap is telling someone what to do as opposed to asking them what they think they should be doing and then helping them get to the right decision. How many of us like to be told what to do? Do we prefer being asked for our ideas?

One could write a book about communication and never cover all of the nuances of what makes for effective communications. One thing is sure however, we have to work overtime to ensure our words convey what we wish our listener to hear in the way we intended them to hear and perceive our message.

John Richardson is a Vice President with The Frontier Group. He is one of the practice leaders on career coaching, outplacement and executive development.