At work, perception is everything. You may feel like you are above the office politics, and you have no time to schmooze your coworkers. But, the way others perceive you and your work is key to your success. Do you feel like you’ve done everything right at work, but yet you’re not getting promoted? Are you having trouble connecting with your coworkers on a personal as well as professional level? You may need to take a step back and examine how others are perceiving you and your work. If you think you may not be perceived the way that you want to be perceived, then it’s time to make a change.
Follow these steps to improve your perception at work:
- Become self-aware. It can be a difficult pill to swallow, but you must be honest with yourself. Observe how people react to you at work. Do your coworkers greet you with a smile, or look down at the floor, avoiding eye contact when you walk by. Do your colleagues say things like, “Thank you, you were a real help,” or do they try to evade including you in their projects.
- Ask for feedback & take action. This may seem uncomfortable at first, but this is the best way to understand how others perceive you—simply ask them. After you lead an important meeting, or complete a project send a survey to participants prompting feedback, or schedule a one-on-one with your boss to elicit feedback. Then, take action of the feedback. Make a list of things you can do to improve, and develop a plan for self improvement.
- Take responsibility and don’t place blame. I often hear employees complain that their coworkers “throw them under the bus” for mistakes, rather than accepting their contribution to the mistake. If you fail to meet a deadline, never say, “Johnny didn’t send me the spreadsheet on time, so I couldn’t complete my project.” Say, “I apologize that I missed the deadline, and I will follow up with Johnny to get the spreadsheet sent over ASAP.”
- Share your success stories and give credit where it’s due. This is not to be confused with bragging; no one likes a bragger. However, if you find a new process that works, share it with your team, so they can experience the benefits as well. Make sure to say things like, “Jill brought up a good point, which inspired me to create this spreadsheet.” So that you are not taking credit for your coworker’s idea, and you are showing that you are a team player.
- Gain promoters. Who do you know who will vouch for your work, or who can share your success stories on your behalf? Look for ways to gain exposure. Ask your boss to share your project success story in the next team meeting, so that your peers know that you are making valuable contributions.
- Be friendly. Take time to say hello, and ask how your coworker is doing with a project. Show genuine care and concern for your coworker’s progress, and offer a helping hand if they are struggling. Smile and be kind when speaking with your colleagues.
Keep in mind that perception is a fragile thing. Understand that a negative perception cannot change to positive overnight. However, a positive perception can be shattered with one negative interaction. Remain contentious of how you are being perceived by others, and think objectively about how you would perceive your own actions if you were on the other side. When others perceive you in a positive light, you will have a much better chance at getting promoted, you will have more positive interactions with your coworkers, and you’ll begin to enjoy your workday a little bit more.