As much as we’d like to believe we are solely evaluated by our words and deeds, it’s not always the case. Often others develop a perception of us based upon the people we hang out with.
Here’s a true story. Years ago, a very smart, capable colleague of mine was trying to be selected for a prestigious position within an association. Every year, she would apply for this role and every year, she would get turned down. Behind the scenes, we all knew the reason – one of her closest friends was brash and confrontational. No one wanted to deal with the combative friend, so no one would deal with her. The assumption was made that, if the friend was belligerent, then she was too.
It wasn’t until many years had passed that my colleague was able to convince the group to give her the benefit of the doubt. They did and things worked out well. But the reality is…sometimes people don’t get those chances.
I’m reminded of this when I talk to employees about their managers. Face it, employees pay attention to who their manager hangs out with. Is it the fellow managers who are professional and well-respected? Or the ones who appear to be goofballs? There’s an unspoken rule that professional people hang out with other professional people.
Okay, so you don’t agree? Just think about what happens when…
Your worst employee recommends a job candidate.
You’re considering a consultant whose company was just accused of illegal or offensive activity.
Your worst employee could be recommending your very next rock star. And the consultant might have nothing to do with the illegal or offensive actions. But right or wrong, a connection is made. While the connection is a very natural, human response, we also need to do the hard task of stepping away from the emotion and make sure we are viewing the situation properly.
On the flip side, we have to realize how a situation might be perceived by others. For example, if I hang out with people who are most always snarky and negative, it’s possible I will be perceived as snarky and negative too. I might be okay with that and then again, maybe not. Those are decisions I have to make.
Keeping our minds open to how we view others and how they view us can help to ensure that perception and reality are one and the same.
Image courtesy of Klearchos Guide to the Galaxy0