Last month, we looked at why you sometimes get misunderstood at work.
This month, we focus on what you can do to keep it from happening.
Personality differences …
Let’s start with the number one bit of advice I can give you to bridge the gap between you and those who think and act differently than you.
It starts with understanding how things go wrong.
People who communicate, process information, make decisions, and interact with others differently than you will often see your style and your particular behavior as perverse and motivated by something other than positive intention.
Solution: Let them know what your positive intention is for what you’re doing and the way you’re doing it.
They may disagree with the method, but at least they’ll understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Most people don’t do this. They assume others intuitively understand their positive intention. They leave it open to interpretation. Not a good idea.
The burden is really on you to achieve clarity on this score and prevent misunderstandings.
You may even want to go a little overboard to make sure you’ve made yourself clear and then check in with people to verify they got the message.
Because while it’s okay to have disagreements, it’s not okay to have misperceptions.
Cultural norms …
Sometimes, you may feel as if you have to behave differently than you would normally choose to, because of what the organizational culture expects of you. And that can lead to misunderstandings.
For example: You’re a manager and you’ve seen that the organization doesn’t tolerate mistakes very well and there’s a price to pay for screwing up. So, what kind of managerial behavior is that likely to push you in the direction of?
Micromanagement vs. delegation and “empowerment.”
Understandably, the employees who are being more intensely managed feel as if you don’t believe in them or trust them to do the job the right way.
So, what do you do in a case like this? You can buck the trend and set a different cultural norm. But, at the very least, you can explain you’re so closely monitoring things because your behind is on the line and assure them you respect their abilities and trust them to do good work.
Snap judgments …
We said last month that people tend to judge a book by its cover, and those snap judgments are often inaccurate.
But you have some control here.
Why not be proactive and think of how you’d like to be perceived and do your best to put forth that image up front?
Think about how you come across, not just based on the words you speak, but also on your non-verbal behavior … how you look TO people, how you look AT people, and how you sound to people.
We all behave in ways that send subtle messages that may not help create the impressions of ourselves we hope to project.
Do you make eye contact? Do you sound gruff? Do you look relaxed and open or somewhat anxious and guarded? Consider how you come across to others … and change what could be creating the wrong impression.
Lack of communication and feedback …
If you want to create doubt, distrust, and dysfunction in an organization, just fail to routinely communicate your expectations and your assessments of the performance of others in a timely and professional way.
Anonymous survey methods like 360 feedback sessions can be invaluable in facilitating the feedback process. But, honestly, most of the time, all you have to do is talk frequently, focusing on agreed-upon goals and how well people are doing in meeting them.
Be clear about expectations and don’t withhold feedback … and that includes positive feedback.
As the One Minute Manager says, it’s far more helpful and encouraging if you can “catch someone doing something right.”
Instead of being perceived as the “heavy” who stands in judgment, you, as a manager, can be seen as a mentor, a champion, and an ally.
Talk about making a difference in how you’re perceived.
So, just a few ideas on things we can do to keep from being misunderstood. All easily implementable, because they all have to do with engaging in more frequent, more explicit, and more positive communication.