Managing Perception

Contrary to common delusion, the reality is subjective. Thus, there are variations of how people see things that might cause misunderstanding. That is why managing perception in the workplace is essential for an organization. Let us take a closer look.

First, PERCEPTION is a mental image used to interpret and understand information about the environment; it comes with the following biases:

Attribution is a process when “we look for the unseen cause behind what we see” dealing with sense-based information (Lumen, n.d., para. 3);

Selective perception is a “process of screening out information that we are uncomfortable with or that contradicts our beliefs” (GreggU, 2018);

Stereotypes are categorizing others based on general opinion or preconceived image of people with a particular trait;

The halo effect “is when we form a general impression based on a single (typically good) characteristic.” (GreggU, 2018);

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies (“interpersonal expectancy effect” or “pygmalion effect”) occurs when social belief and previous experience navigate a person to act according to his social role; or anticipate others’ behavior meets his expectation (Jussim, 2001; Rosenthal, 2012).

Those five effects apply to both manager and employee behavior. The manager might have a biased opinion towards employees’ jobs. On the other hand, employees tend to conceive the working environment and interpret things differently. That is why observing countermeasures is essential. 
How can managers mitigate the impact that differences in perception might have?
To increase the objectivity of evaluation esteems, ask yourself the three questions:

Has the person regularly behaved this way or experienced this outcome in the past? – CONSISTENCY
Does the person act the same way or receive similar outcomes in different types of situations? – DISTINCTIVENESS
Would others behave similarly in the same situations, or receive the same outcome? – CONSENSUS (GreggU, 2018)

How can an employee’s unique perceptions impact their relationship with their manager?

As we already learned, sometimes a manager skips information about what an employee can do and what he did. In that situation, Carla Harris suggests training people think about you in a certain way by taking three steps:
– pick three adjectives that are consistent with what you are;
– pick three adjectives that are valued in an organization;
– behave consistently in the intersection area of the six adjectives (Cornell, 2020).
The technique called CONSISTENT BEHAVIOR helps manage people’s perceptions in the workplace.

Indeed, “our feelings, emotions, desires, and values can lead us to perceive things in a less than objective way.” (Lumen, n.d., para. 2). However, if we know how it works, we can use the rules to rectify the flaw in professional relationships.

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business (2020, February 25). Carla Harris – Managing Perceptions. [Video]. Youtube.
GreggU (2018, November 3). Perceptions in Organizations. [Video]. Youtube.Jussim, L. (2001). Self-fulfilling Prophecies. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences.
Lumen Learning (n.d.). Module 12: The Individual and the Organization. Common Management Biases. Retrieved from
Rosenthal, R. (2012). Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. Retrieved from

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