Why looking good is important at work!
Have you ever talked to the mirror one whole day? Neither have I, but I am wondering how would it be to look at us when we are at work, maybe if some spy cameras can video record how we interact each day and play it for us before we go to bed every night. One thing is for sure, many of us won’t sleep!
No, I am not suggesting that we all suck at work or misbehave, but suggesting that we all try to play the role that has been given to us or try to present ourselves the way we think others should see us. “What’s wrong in playing the role” you may ask, after all have been hired to do our role, doing our role and playing the role have different meanings to me, I am not playing with words nor am I an expert in English. But have you observed yourself or your colleagues talking about things in an unnatural way, where they are not comfortable in stating or doing what is supposed to be obvious? But we may argue that organisation settings are artificial in nature where you cannot be stating the real things. You are supposed to be telling what looks appropriate, we call it “professional” for a want of a better word.
We were in a performance review meeting, the retention rate for one of the business units looked exceedingly high, as HR had paid a visit to the biz unit recently, the HR Manager told the business head that the attrition will now drastically increase based on what he had observed. He said no, maybe only marginally, but in later months it doubled confirming HR’s fears. I doubt if such a successful business head was not aware of the underlying situation. But a not so good situation would reflect on 3 things on the business head
- Lack of awareness
- Lack of transparency? Or that he did not bring it up in the first place so why admit?
- He had to take remedial action immediately and maybe he wasn’t sure what had to be done
The best thing we do in organisation settings is to paint a good picture so that we save ourselves from a tough situation for the day. Most likely seen in sales settings where we give good projections only to falter later and come up with a list of excuses. Of course we can always blame the organisation setting and supervisor for having a culture where failures are not acceptable. It also puts a huge question mark on our own personal integrity and character when we want to look good when we aren’t. But we all do it for a reason and sometimes it has some history too.
First half of the year was over, my numbers weren’t looking good, based on the external ecosystem and data I had I knew I was in no way to achieve the annual target. I promptly brought it to my boss’s notice and gave him the qualifying pointers on why logically it was out of question in spite of my best efforts, he said “what do you mean, we will have to take action, this is no way, you can’t give up in the middle of the year”.
The next one month was followed with a series of embarrassing, pressurising review meetings in increasing frequency in different formats (intimidating calls, cold meetings, harsh emails). The underlying message was even if the reality was apparent my attitudeof stating the obvious wasn’t acceptable.
I learnt an important lesson that day. Admitting to reality in organisation settings sometimes/many times makes you sound weak and lands you in overnight trouble. Organisations want strong people who should drum up positive vibes/messages that bosses want to hear. The ‘let’s do it’ or ‘will do it’ rant are more appreciated than the naysayers.
There is always the danger of looking stupid later when you break your promise or projection, but it buys you precious time and your personality a positive attitude or trier tag in the interim.
It’s not just in sales settings that we want to look good, think of many such situations where we want a psychological edge over colleagues, alumni, relatives or competitors when we fake it, think of Job interviews, internal and external where we try to highlight/oversell the great deeds of our past to hapless future bosses. But then, there is no other way, can we go and tell our future employers that we are completely depressed/frustrated with our current boss, pay, role or detail a list of failures to get our next piece of life? The world likes to hear ‘good things” and let’s just say that we offer them what they want to hear?
Once I asked one of my colleagues in the hallway ‘how are you? He replied in Hindi to mean he was in the dump (bura haal hai !), for a minute I couldn’t continue the conversation, there you go, we can’t handle weak sounding colleagues either, we like people who put up a smile and say, “All is well” which many a times ends being idiotic. I too find it difficult to deal with situations where colleagues put up their hands or say “mission impossible”. But the opposite is also not comforting, one of my ex-peers had this habit of stating that he was closing a new million dollar deal every time you bump into him. He used to forget that we shared the same finance function and his factual performance was evident to us too!
So how do we come to terms to be our self and not wanting to look good all the time?
- I would pick an organisation where this behavior is mostly accepted, this is easier said than done, but it won’t be impossible to find them eventually.
- If we are lucky we can get bosses who are more practical in terms of accepting realities. Try to stick with them if you are the staying or ‘following the bosses’ types.
- Work hard, people watch your efforts which should give you occasional space to state the truth.
- Now the difficult one, Good performance over a long period of time helps consistent performers can say things which are sometimes not palatable, But consistent performance is an interim phase too!
So there aren’t many organisations/leaders in the world who like reality all the time. So just like you dress up when you leave your home every day, remember to carry that good look of yours to your words too!
Looking good is fashionable!
I learnt how to cook stories to look good!