Perception - why does it matter for Managers?

In this blog, I will talk about how a promotion opportunity was missed due to a wrong perception of me.

Srihari Udugani
Management Matters

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Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

Many managers sometimes don’t understand why peer managers and supervisors are unhappy with us even after doing everything right.

In my case, the reason was Perception. Among my peer managers, I was considered a non-supporter of new ideas.

But I never was. I always took new ideas seriously and helped to analyze the risks that must be taken care of before implementing them, was quick in identifying the problems that came with it, and so on.

I never understood why my peers had this wrong thought about me.

In this blog, I will share my story about how a wrong perception took away my opportunity for a promotion.

The situation

It was the year 2015, I was transitioning to a management role. This was my first time being a manager.

It was exciting as well as exhausting due to all the wrong steps that were taken during the transition.

By this year, I had been in this company for 8 years and I knew the product in and out. So any question, any problem, any enhancements, any risks or issues, I could answer without doing much analysis.

During this year, the company decided to bring a change to the platform on which the product was built. As per the senior management, the new platform was expected to bring speed, stability, and efficiency to the whole system.

When the approach was presented, I was very happy and started identifying the risks, issues, and gaps that come with it and how it impacts current customer implementations.

Once there was clarity on how things would change or impact, I started asking about it in all the meetings to get clarity. This is when peer managers started getting the wrong perception about me.

July 2015 to March 2016

By July 2015, it was clear that the platform team would go ahead with the changes, and the plan for completing the new platform implementation was presented to all the managers in the company.

I was not too happy and expressed it to my supervisor. I was informed to wait until the end of the year to see how things progress and then provide my feedback while adopting the new platform.

There were several intermediate progress meetings and I continued to express my unhappiness. And finally Feb-2016, the platform was ready for adoption.

In March 2016 as part of the yearly appraisal, my supervisor gave me positive feedback on how I have taken up the management role and brought in many improvements. I was also informed that in next year's promotion list, my supervisor will recommend my name if the performance continues.

I was also given one major negative feedback. My supervisor informed me that no doubt I am highlighting things related to the new platform issues, risks, and so on. It is also creating an environment that is not helping for any progress. So I was asked to tone down a little bit on my observations on the new platform.

This feedback I ignored as I felt my supervisor was taking the side of the platform team who were not doing that great.

April 2016 to March 2017

My team started adopting the new platform for the product we were accountable for. There were many issues and problems with the new platform.

In many instances, I was asked about the delays in adopting the new platform. The main reasons, I was quoting were related to the issues and problems that were related to the platform that the team had highlighted to me.

In a few cases, I was going back very hard on the platform team to get things in the right way, rather than releasing something half-completed.

In my opinion, this feedback had to be provided to make the platform better rather than anything else. I had no other agenda or thoughts in my mind.

But I had not realised that it was creating a bad perception about me and each of my peer managers were taking it in a very different way.

It was too late to do anything.

March 2017 - Appraisal meeting

The situation was tense. The supervisor had invited the Head of HR as well to this meeting.

My supervisor mentioned that from the management of the team’s point of view, I have excellent performance. Even in tough situations, I have managed to communicate, plan, and adjust to the issues and problems due to the new platform.

But, I will not get promoted even though my ratings are high. The next level in the management of that company was to work more closely with peer managers to build strategies for the next years. And all of my peer managers were not happy with me.

3 key feedbacks that were given to me are as follows.
▪ I am not supportive of change
▪ Strong feedback about issues and gaps resulting in delays and more effort
▪ Always trying to find problems in releases

The supervisor mentioned that he and the peer managers don’t have a good perception of me as I keep finding faults in their work.

This created frustration and irritation in me. All I was trying to do was help these folks to become better but it ended up creating a wrong perception about me.

For a few days, I did not understand why it was so.

What next?

I was completely demotivated by the feedback and missed promotion. I didn’t know what to do.

I had a long discussion with one of my most trusted friends about this. I explained to him what all happened and the kind of situation I was put in because of their faults. Also about the extra work, I and my team had to do because of the gaps and issues in the platform.

My friend mentioned that everything was right but I might have overdone it. This is when I realized that instead of helping them to get through the situation, I was only giving feedback about the faults but never solutions.

I could have taken some responsibility to help shape the platform or simplify the problem for them. This could have created a positive environment for all the peer managers.

This realization helped me to see that giving feedback is important and how I can adapt to help simplify some scenarios is also equally important.

Next 1 year, I tried to change the perception of my peers about me. But nothing helped.

The more I tried, the more it was going bad. So, it was time for me to move on from the company.

I was sad that leaving a company with a bad perception was not good, but I had no other choice.

Final thoughts

What this helped me to learn the hard way is even though the intentions are right, if it is overdone or not presented in the right way, the result is a wrong perception.

This perception cannot be changed easily or it might never change. So working with a balance and carefully presenting viewpoints is important for managers.

Otherwise, wrong perceptions could lead to opportunities getting missed and slow down growth.

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Srihari Udugani
Management Matters

Knowledge Made Simple and Structured, Decisions Made Clear. Happy success!