Imagine a workplace where managers and coworkers viewed one another through a purely objective lens. Or a business where customer concerns were resolved without blame, judgment or misunderstanding, 100% of the time. Based on one’s work history or customer service experiences, most people would view either scenario as pure fantasy or highly unrealistic. The reason these scenarios seem inconceivable stems from the fact that many organizations’ perceptions of their workforce, customer service standards and brand reputation are out of alignment with those of their employees, customers and their respective industry as a whole.
In addition, managers seem surprised to learn that employee and/or negative customer perceptions of their business are the direct result of their own
narrow–mindedness. They fail to see the business consequences of protecting a culture that is either stuck in the past, or one that is unwilling to embrace the new reality of celebrating divergent opinions.
Consider the example of Jack, a talented millennial in the sales profession. Jack’s client base is largely comprised of an older demographic that prefers “closing the deal” with his baby boomer manager. Jack shared his frustration with me regarding the perceived lack of trust emanating from his customers, based on the fact that he is twenty years their junior. He laments: “My friends tell me that I should grow a beard so I’ll be taken more seriously.”
Seriously? The harsh truth is that Jack’s customers don’t perceive him as capable or competent. Jack’s manager runs the risk of losing a valuable employee by knowingly or unknowingly maintaining the status quo. Even worse, Jack is perceived as lacking the ability to build business relationships, both internally and externally.
When a genuine display of trust is encouraged, people are motivated to be their best. Conversely, in the absence of trust, individuals are likely to question their employer’s credo, become increasingly disengaged, or potentially shut down and quit.
Whether or not we are prepared to admit it, subjectivity creeps into almost every human interaction. Business is often won or lost based on how we perceive people and enterprises. A prospective employee forms impressions of an organization based on their research, the job interview and often is highly influenced by a friend’s recommendation when deciding to accept a position. Once on board, his or her actual experience may not resemble what he or she envisioned. A customer decides to return to an establishment or take their business elsewhere based on how he or she discerns and then experiences the overall encounter.
So, how to overcome preconceived notions and biases in business?
In order to expand our perspective and suspend judgment, we first need to recognize that our frames of reference, attitudes and perceptions have been honed over a period of time. Influencers include family, geographic location, education and culture. Shifting perspectives and altering biases that have been engrained for years is a process. Many individuals are unaware that they view the world through a myopic lens and may not realize the negative business consequences until they experience the impact directly. Others may remain oblivious for a multitude of reasons and never transform their thinking.
You perceptions are indeed your truth. Only you can decide whether your discernments are either attracting or repelling potential talent, or clientele, from doing business with you.