Why Should Managers Study Human Perception?

by | Aug 9, 2023 | Psychology

“Perceptions are shaped by past experiences, culture, attitude, values, upbringing, and more. Once you have formed this perception, it might be difficult for you to change your mind about your coworker even if he performs well”1. This quote provides a great example of why it is so important for managers to study human perception. We all have internal biases. When we transition into the corporate world, we bring those biases with us. Additionally, stereotypes, selective attention, halo effect primacy effect, recency effect, contrast effect, projecting and self-fulfilling prophecy are just some examples of common perceptual distortions that if a manager is not aware of with their employees can have negative effects on both the work environment, as well as the productivity and profitability of a company.

“It’s been said that perception is reality. In the workplace, perceptions that aren’t managed become rumors, then gossip and then backbiting, which leads to destruction. Unmanaged perceptions become a reality that wasn’t intended”2.  In this same article by The Business Times Staff 2 the writers bring up a very important point, regarding perception.  Most people are not comfortable providing direct feedback. Therefore, we do not often have the opportunity to have feedback on how others perceive us. Therefore, we do not know if others’ perception of us is an asset or detriment which can lead to attribution errors.  One way we can manage perceptions is by taking the initiative to ask for honest feedback from others.

As psychologist Kurt Lewin observed, “people act not upon the basis of reality, but upon their perception of reality. . . we tend to interpret events differently from what actually happens in our environment”1. It is not only important for managers to have a working knowledge of attribution, correspondent interference, and perceptional biases, good leaders will teach their employees how to recognize these factors as well.  In an article by O’Hara, the author states, “But we forget that we have so much more information about ourselves than other people do, . . . We also forget that nearly every action is open to multiple interpretations”3. By having a working knowledge about attributions and biases, employees will be better communicators and in turn a more cohesive team. Additionally, feedback regarding perception needs to be done in a constructive manner as effective feedback provides information that lets us know how we’re doing2.

If you would like to learn more about how our C-Suite and team coaching services can help your organization, contact the team of experts at EMMA International at info@emmainternational.com or by calling 248-987-4497.


Resources:

[1] Neck, C.P., Houghton, J.D., Murray, E.L. (2017). Organizational Behavior. Sage. Pg 90.

[2] The Business Times Staff (2010, October 13). Manage Perceptions in the Workplace. The Business Times. Retrieved from: https://thebusinesstimes.com/manage-perceptions-in-the-workplace/

[3] O’Hara, C. (2015) You Really Can Change Your Reputation at Work.  Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2015/09/you-really-can-change-your-reputation-at-work 

[4] The Business Times Staff (2010, October 13). Manage Perceptions in the Workplace. The Business Times. Retrieved from: https://thebusinesstimes.com/manage-perceptions-in-the-workplace/

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