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Perception is Reality

According to this article, employees’ perceptions of work conditions have a significant impact on the performance of their organizations. This was according to research from Gallup, Inc. published in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Employee Work Perceptions Predict Organizational Success

In my years of working I have found one saying to be true and that is that perception is in fact reality. If there is a lack of communication between employees and their employers, feelings of mistrust and deceit can fester. People feel powerless in a work environment where there are too many rules and/or standard operating procedures that conflict with their ability to get the work done swiftly. For example, when too many approvals are required for non routine decisions. This can even lead to barriers in building trust with employees.

I have yet to find an employee that really comes to work without the desire to contribute and do well. True, not everyone is well suited to the role they are in but that does not change their intent. Often if an employee feels unheard and finds that they are not invited to participate in meetings regarding their team initiatives or they are not selected to partake in problem solving discussions, they opt out. There is nothing worse that having an employee that shows up to work and opts out of the process. Essentially that person becomes a drain to organizational resources and if management fails to address the issue, it only further infuriates high performers.  A low degree of task variety can also lead to a feeling of powerlessness especially if the monotonous task is not clearly linked to the overall strategic direction of the organization. If there are few rewards for unusual performance such as an innovative idea or a contribution to cost savings then these forms of positive contribution are not encouraged and thus less likely to occur. Recognition should reinforce the behaviors that are encouraged and ideally those behaviors should tie directly to strategic deliverables. Employees can become increasingly frustrated with their tasks are unrelated to current problem areas that are clearly visible to them. Organizations need to create forums for employees to voice their ideas and clarify their concerns.

Motivation is an element of performance that is not to be construed with productivity, turnover, absenteeism, satisfaction, etc. If the organization is not fueling an employee’s source of motivation, the grape-vine may very likely be filling the void. So, what to do? I would suggest start with the notion of building trust. Expect your leaders to lead by example. Create communication vehicles that allow employees a forum to ask questions and get answers in a candid, honest, safe environment. Ideally, it could be done via an Intranet and anonymously. Why not face to face? In group scenarios, the good questions never get asked to do social influences. Online, more can come out and this provides engaging and productive dialogue to take place. If management actively addresses the questions that come up and creates an interactive dialogue with employees it can build trust, create confidence in leadership and allow employee to feel heard.

Remember, perception is reality and often the thoughts that fill the voids where answers are not provided are far worse than reality itself.

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