I often recall an incident that took place over twenty five years ago at my work. It was during a time that was both vulnerable and volatile for me. You see, I had just gotten a promotion at work, and the main function of this position was to provide training for new employees and refresher training for the existing ones. There was a tremendous amount of work involved here and there were other factors that only added to the degree of difficulty on this job.
The new employees were an interesting mix of folks with a variety of personality traits, attitudes and the willingness to listen, and learn from being properly trained. I was one of four women who had gotten promoted to trainers and we all had the same responsibilities toward our own jobs and for our new trainees.
Anyway, some of them were challenging me on my method of training and how I responded to them and their different needs, and how I rated them on the learning curve. Once a week I would have to meet with my supervisor and we would discuss the progress and/or the lack of concerning the new employees. During these weekly meetings, we would also review our objectives and make the necessary adjustments to meet the needs of the trainees. And so it was during one of these meetings that my supervisor called me on the carpet and made the famous statement that I would recall years and years later.
Well, he began the conversation by informing me of several complaints he had received about my “attitude” and my “behavior” that wasn’t agreeing with the trainees. I had been accused of being sarcastic, unhelpful, and condescending to the little darlings. They also said I was showing partiality and was trying to make them feel stupid. Now, I ask you; how do you make someone else feel stupid? You’re either stupid or you’re not and that is totally on the individual and not the cause of another person. I may have been guilty of a trespass or two, but I sure as heck did not own up to it. And I still maintain that nobody can make another feel stupid.
I figured that I could convince my supervisor that I was being blackballed for no substantial reason, and that their complaints were grossly exaggerated. He didn’t agree or disagree but he maintained neutrality that really got on my nerves. I mean; I thought he should have been standing up for me who was a long term employee who had always done a great job and all, right? After all, why was he rushing to the defense of a bunch of whiny complaining newbies? How can you justifiably complain about the training you receive and feel as if you need to make suggestions for a better way to do something when you haven’t even learned the right way yet?
I sat there and listened to him and tried to maintain a poker face all the while seething inside at the sheer nerve of the cry babies and the gall of him to even approach me in this manner as if he assumed they were right and I was…not. Finally at the end of his diatribe, I gathered myself together and asked him what he thought about me (knowing my work ethic and record as he did), because it was important to me what he thought more than what they thought. Not a good move on my part because then he thought I was not showing enough concern for them not only as new employees, but as my fellow coworkers. Huh?
So now this brings us to the point of this story. He leans back in his chair and steeples his fingers and as he rocked back and forth he says to me that “It’s not how you think you appear to others but it is what they perceive you to be that matters”. This did not sit well with me at all. First off, who did he think he was…a Freudian professor? And who did they think they were? I won’t repeat here what I said then, just be sure that it was a collection of descriptive four letter words.
So perception versus reality …hmm. How do you see it? Is what we perceive real or what is real not to be perceived as such because it’s not real? It can be a mind twister, I’ll say. And for the past twenty five years I connect that day with those words. If only I could perceive that right out of my life, then what had happened in that meeting would not have been real.
All Our Best!