Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Corporate lesson - Perception is both the smoke and the fire

In the last week I've been a ringside observer to an interesting "clash of personalities" as I would put it, politically correctly of course, in office. It brought home the first corporate lesson I ever learnt - that intentions matter not one bit. Perception is god. Not your own... but others' perception of you and your actions. No one will ever bother to talk to you or ask you if you really intended something. But they will judge you on what they perceive to be your intentions and motivations. And act on that judgement.

Funnily, while this used to bother the hell out of me three years ago, today I see the practical utility of it in the corporate sphere. In a world where everyone is playing one gigantic game of Chinese whispers, it is simply not practical to attempt fathoming the intent behind every act or, on the other side of it, trying to explain oneself. In an organisation with a few hundred people, judging on actions and consequences is not just practical but almost a heuristic necessity.

The fact that one is judged on one's actions and it's effects on the people around (on the people not the job) alone has its pluses and minuses. For the extremely political (and at the same time prudent), it's a great way to smoke screen your intentions. For the un-political and yet prudent, it makes choices and decisions simple - as long as you can get your intentions and actions to match - you don't have to ever explain yourself. It is however, suicidal for the imprudent. If you are political and imprudent, you will get caught red handed. If you are un-political and imprudent, you will be hanged, most likely without a hearing. 

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