Because, Umm, Perception is Reality
(One of the 83 quick and practical life & work lessons from Sh*t Sandwich: Quick & Practical Success Lessons for Practically Anyone.)
I am not advocating you stop working hard and only work on how you’re perceived; though I am making it perfectly clear that on the surface (and most managers never look beneath that) you must clearly project the perception that aligns with what the important people in your company expect.
To help you achieve this, I’ve noted the following common traits of the “perceived hard workers” over the years:
- Never do anything good in private:
- If you arrive at work before your boss, park in a conspicuous place.
- If you work through lunch, make sure you mention something in front of your boss like “Wow, is it already two o’clock? I didn’t realize the time and ended up working straight through lunch again.”
- If you’re going to stay late, be sure to have your door open with the lights on.
- If you can, send most of your emails to others in your company (especially your boss) before or after working hours. (Using your drafts folder to hold non-essential emails is a great way to do this.)
- Never do anything bad in public. (For example, if you arrive to work late, sneak in a back door.)
- “Blend” with your boss;
- If he golfs, golf. If he doesn’t, don’t.
- If he roots for a certain sports team, subtly become a fan yourself.
- Dress like him/her (if you’re both the same sex, of course).
- Go above and beyond, perceptually:
- Noticeably over-deliver where your boss is concerned.
- If both you and a direct peer have a similar assignment, make your delivery better.
- Ask for opinions/advice. People love their own opinions, so ask your boss for some advice at least once every couple of weeks.
- And never, ever be obvious about managing perceptions.
This last point is the likely the most critical to get right, because those perceived as managing perceptions are perceived as manipulators.
And… perception is everything.