Corporate perception in quest for excellence


In the quest for excellence, organizations today spend more time finding faults in employees than in finding jobs that fit them. This results in bitter employee-organization engagement.

It’s interesting to note how perceptions of right and wrong are influenced by personal considerations. Even more interesting is the fact that based on these personal perceptions, there is a tendency to brand an employee, and point fingers at his/her personality, instead of re-evaluating what he or she could have done differently and how the organization could have drawn the best out of the employee.

Corporate perceptions and usages:

Corporate perception of what is acceptable and unacceptable are contextual, relative and in clash with the personal sensitivity of employees. This is known as hurried branding. There’s always a hurry to brand an employee whether he or she be good or bad.

If a task is given to a subordinate, and based on whether he has done it or not, the superior quickly builds up an opinion about that person. If the superior do not like a particular task done, instead of saying ‘it needs more improvement’, he brands the subordinate ‘a failure’. The same example could be looked at from a wholly different perspective. When a particular work done is appreciated by the supervisor or the manager, the worker is immediately put on pedestal. In other words, depending on individual perception, the worker is branded Mr. Right or Mr. Wrong.

It is also important to gauge what someone is right or wrong in relation to personal values or a set of agreements. In the context of an organization, it is very important to stick to unwritten corporate agreements, plans or codes of conduct. If we have done a task as per the agreement, we are ‘right’. So, ‘wrong’ here basically involves the issues of violation of that corporate agreement or company core values.

Instead, most of the time, what happens is that we say something is wrong from the standpoint of a personal value premise, and expect others to follow.

Added to this external perception, experts feel, employees themselves tend to attach a negative perception to their competencies. During assessment, they want to know more about their weaknesses. This is linked to an employee’s cultural mindset and this happens because appraisers think it is not right for an employee to be wrong. The nature of work itself has changed. It’s more team-oriented and less individualistic, making it tougher to evaluate individual performance.

Ambiguity in perception:

This ambiguity in perception brings in a mindset where we think that being ‘wrong’ is harmful. Hence, organizations constantly drive elimination rather than enablement.

The urge to escape wrongdoing also makes managers constantly raise quality standards. In the process of raising the bar, they get into a mindset wherein they do not mind losing out on 10 good people. They always want to ensure that not even one wrong person gets in.

It is interesting to note here is the fear of a wrong people entering into the organization, as a consequence of which managers only look for faults in people. And that’s where ‘elimination’ begins. As a result, they lose out on lot of good people.

Even more interesting is the way the equation changes once a candidate enters an organization. The candidate has to fight a number of eliminations finally to get into the organization. There’s always an element of vengeance. The moment he is in, he starts looking for faults in his manager.

The effort has to start with changing individual mindsets. Culturally, Indians steer clear of appreciating good work, and are quick at finding faults instead. This has to change.

Companies need to strike a balance whereby strength is drawn from the ‘right’, and the ‘wrong’ is seen as a stepping stone for success. Without this attitude, no organization’s people strategy can go very far.

To conclude instead of looking at a wrong-proof system, looking at embracing best practice, and enabling people excel rather than banking upon fault elimination mechanisms should be the attitude of the managers.