Managing perceptions: Do you really care?
Perceptions about an individual are greatly driven by the reactions and behaviours that s/he projects to the world
Organisational events provide managers with great insights on the engagement levels of his team members
“Friends in Boston, be safe” read a status message on my Facebook newsfeed this morning. There was a downpour of status messages, tweets and official statements in the social media in the last 24 hours expressing solidarity with the victims and condemning the terrorist attacks in Boston. What strikes most to social media lurkers like me is the demographic distribution of people and entities who have posted these messages. A closer analysis of my newsfeeds reveals three distinct sets of social media citizens — the deeply concerned, the opportunist, and the openly unconcerned.
In many ways, this is how employees behave whenever an event occurs in their company. Many react favourably or disprove of an organisational event such as a merger announcement, compensation changes or senior leadership movements. Needless to say, the perceptions about an individual are greatly driven by the reactions and behaviours that s/he projects to the world either intentionally or unintentionally.
In this article, we explore the characteristics of the three organisational stereotypes and the consequent perceptions that the individual portrays. While this is not a definitive measure, these behaviours may provide some predictive indicators about an employee’s commitment and engagement within an organisation. Behavioural scientists recommend that managers look out for some suggestive indicators in an employee’s behaviour whenever any disruptive organisational event happens.
The deeply concerned
The deeply concerned are the people who are truly and deeply affected by an organisational event either because it directly affects their everyday existence or out of genuine empathy towards the development. Some of the most emphatic messages on social media post the Boston bombings were from people who had friends or relatives or who were emotionally affected by the loss of life.
While an individual may raise a vocal objection or word out eloquent praises about an organisational event, it would be wrong for a manager to brand an individual disengaged or engaged based on that. The deeply concerned is one who understands and recognises the impact of the event in his daily life and is prepared to take charge of how to deal with it. Rather than brand the deeply concerned, it is important for the manager to identify if there are any concern areas and solicit the individual’s inputs to address them. The deeply concerned are perhaps the best resources to see an organisational change through to its logical and successful completion.
The opportunist is one who does not get affected by an event, but tries to portray an image of grave concern to friends and colleagues. More often than not, it is likely that the opportunist is deeply disengaged but is trying to mask it with an external image that s/he is trying to portray. The opportunist may also show concerned optimism/pessimism to portray an image of being “cool, likeable, and popular”. A manager has to watch out for the opportunist as it is difficult to understand how the individual affects the morale of others in the team.
A manager might easily misunderstand the unconcerned as the disengaged. The unconcerned simply can be an individual who has not been affected directly or indirectly by an event and hence has chosen to maintain honest silence than express an insincere comment. In an attempt to avoid being portrayed as an unconcerned citizen, they might even have the tendency to migrate to the territory of the opportunist. It is, therefore, important for the manager to avoid subconsciously labelling the unconcerned as disengaged.
While they may trigger varied reactions, a disruptive organisational event presents managers with the opportunity to truly understand the level of engagement in their teams.