Obsession With Perception

As a young employee at a company, you are obsessed - completely mentally occupied - by your how others perceive you.  You constantly worry about some (or all) of the following: 

  • What does my manager think about me?
  • Is my reputation ruined for walking into a meeting two minutes late?
  • What will my team think if I ask to work from home next Friday?
  • Did I sound stupid in asking that question?

All of these are fair questions.  You want to make sure people view you in a positive light, as this has future career ramifications.  A better reputation today will allow you to advance your career the way you are hoping.  But, should you obsess over these “what if” scenarios?  I’ve found these “what if” scenarios to be purely speculative and not a big deal.

The main, possibly only, reason these “what if” scenarios provide you with the obsession over your perception is purely because you are worried about it.  It is important to remember people will not remember every little detail about you and what you said or did.  They will remember the important moments and conversations, but the minutiae will fall to the wayside.  Is that question you worried may have made you sound stupid something that is going to alter your reputation forever?  No, it isn’t, so get over it and stop worrying about it.  

Should you concern yourself with your perception?  Absolutely.  It is vitally important.  But you should think about what is truly important, not the unimportant details of daily life.  Small moments are likely to come and go and will not stay in someone’s memory for too long.  Is asking to work from home next Friday going to make others think you are a slacker?  No, it won’t, rather people assume you have something going on at home, like a dentist appointment or delivery, that you need to tend to.  Important moments that impact your perception are built up over time.  If you are consistently two minutes late to meetings, this impacts the perception others have of you.  But if it happens once, don’t sweat it - just apologize and move on.

Since most of the obsession over the perception is internal, how can you get past this?  As you become more experienced you will better understand how others perceive you as a result of what you have done and observed in the workplace.  This will lessen your obsession with perception.  If you do not have time and experience on your side, the best way to get past this is to ask others in a straight forward manner: what is your perception of me as a colleague?  This is very forward, but you will get an answer.  Once you have the answer, take their feedback to heart, adapt it as you see fit, and move on.  Do not linger further on it.  The final way you can get past this obsession of perception is not to think or worry about it at all.  While perception is important, it can often take up so much of your mental state that it effects your ability to think clearly.  If you are one of these people, tell yourself not to worry about what others might think about you.  Usually you are worrying yourself over pure speculation and nothing tangible.

Before you worry or become overly obsessive with how others perceive you, take a step back and think about it.  Are you basing your obsession on fact or internal speculation?  If it is based on speculation, stop yourself right there and get the facts straight or stop worrying about it.  Focusing on your perception is important, but should not be your waking obsession at work.  As a young employee the most important things for you to focus on are doing your work exceptionally well and networking with colleagues.  Don’t let the minutiae cloud your judgement, thought process, or focus.

Thought Starters

  • How do you get over the mental hurdle of these “what if” scenarios so you can focus on your work?
  • How have you communicated with others to understand your “brand” in the workplace?