It was his perception that caused the outburst. "Why aren't there any managers in these sessions? Why aren't they required to attend, too?" he challenged.
Hired to provide workshops on building trust in a workplace lacking it, I answered his question to the extent I could during that first session, "It's my understanding that everyone is attending," I offered. "But let me find out for sure and get back to you."
Confirming at the break that indeed, everyone on staff would be attending one of nine scheduled sessions, he balked. "Yeah, that's what they'll tell you," his anger perceptible through his tone, "but I haven't ever seen it."
By the end of the week, he was not the only staff member posing the question. If a direct supervisor wasn't in the same session as her staff, the perception was she never attended.
There's an explanation for these perceptions. According to management guru, Peter Drucker, "We perceive, as a rule, what we expect to perceive. We see largely what we expect to see, and we hear largely what we expect to hear. The unexpected is usually not received at all." In this case, the unexpected for them was management would also be learning trust building principles.
In my years in management, I've met too many people operating like these workshop attendees. They allow perceptions of reality to be their reality. They accept rumors as fact, carry baggage from work relationships past, and harbor misconceptions believed as truth.
These reality-challenged individuals stay cemented in their outmoded thinking and reactive behaviors. They're as stuck as a mouse in a glue trap, believing that what was the reality still is. They cling to their anger, frustrations, and feelings of past betrayal like a badge of honor. Their smoldering resentments spark new ones, causing them to miss out on building new relationships, grasping new opportunities, or seeing new viewpoints.
While our thoughts may determine what we perceive the reality to be, people who are winning at working don't stop there. They check the facts. They validate their assumptions. They challenge their thinking. In this situation, people who are winning at working would ask the boss their question, not me.
Real is real. That's what people who are winning at working understand. They recognize their thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs can, at times, create faulty logic, misperceptions, inaccuracies, and "their" version of reality. They know that believing the world is flat doesn't make it flat.
It's like the story attributed to Lincoln. One day, frustrated by his aid's faulty logic, Abraham Lincoln asked his staff member, "How many legs does a cow have?" "Well, four of course," the man answered. "Now" said Lincoln, "if the cow's tail is called a leg, how many legs does the cow have?" "Five," answered the aid. "No," said Lincoln. "Simply calling it a leg doesn't make it a leg." And simply thinking something is true doesn't make it true.
Want to be winning at working? Get the facts.