Many years ago at a secretarial lunch our team of personal assistants were asked to participate in an interesting exercise.
We were asked to anonymously write a few words about each person at the table on a small piece of paper. Ultimately each person would end up with a pile of comments about themselves in front of them.
It was an illuminating experience. There was a vast difference between how I viewed myself compared to how I was perceived by the people I worked with. The feedback wasn’t necessarily negative but it was certainly not what I was expecting.
How do you think your work colleagues would describe you?
While we’re at it, what words would you use to describe yourself at work?
- firm but fair
- a team player
- a problem-solver
Did any of the above suggestions trigger a reaction or some form of recognition?
Did you think about some of the people you work with while reading through the list? Did certain faces spring to mind reading certain words?
Did you think of yourself reading particular words?
While we don’t want to obsess about how people perceive us, it is important to be aware of how your work personality and work practices effect other people in the workplace.
Pick out some key words from the above list – feel free to use your own if necessary. Do the words carry a negative connotation? Could your actions be jeopardizing or holding back your career advancement?
I want you to take a closer look. Don’t assume that words such as friendly or social (which we associate as being positive attributes in social settings) are not projecting negatively on you at work.
I once worked with such a friendly person that he struggled doing his actual job because he was too busy chatting to everyone and being popular. He was widely liked but as a manager he was difficult to work with.
If you are the boss or a manager you might be thinking it doesn’t matter what people think of you. On a personal level that may be true but from a work perspective I think it is important.
If people don’t have some form of respect for you on a professional level, you may have a hard time getting them to perform at their best. They won’t trust your management or leadership skills if they have no respect for you as a leader.
So how do we know how our colleagues perceive us? That can be the tricky part.
If you have a trusted co-worker you could certainly ask them, otherwise listen for feedback from people on a everyday basis. Pay closer attention to how people talk to you, their body language and the feedback both negative and positive that comes your way.
It is important to point out that you shouldn’t get bogged down in office gossip and talking behind people’s backs. This sort of behavior will certainly harm your career (even if it is not apparent straight away).
Awareness is the key. Give some thought to how you would describe yourself and whether some of your work characteristics could be harmful (or helpful) to your career.
Ultimately it is only your behavior and actions you can control. Take pride in yourself and strive to do your best work.
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