Employees Perception Towards Their Managers or Leaders

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In dealing with employees, understanding their point of view is imperative. An employee will believe and act on what they perceive to be correct. According to Robbins, perception is a process through which an individual organizes and interprets their sensory impressions in order to present significance to their environment’ (2004). Leaders and managers have to work in unison with workers to acknowledge an organization’s targets. In associations, the impression of workers, leaders, and managers shape the atmosphere and adequacy of the workplace. Perception is the manner we as a whole decipher our encounters. Having the correct discernment is a critical ability for any viable administration. Any organization huge or little acknowledges that perception is often depicted via correspondence and consequently, it is a vital leadership instrument. What separates incredible leaders is their capacity to oversee observations during the time spent taking care of individuals and authoritative issues. What individuals frequently watch or survey as your capacity to be a leader and your adequacy turns into their perception, which thus moves toward becoming reality.

A transformational leader inspires his subordinates through the use of transformational actions that act as motivation to his followers to attain higher performance levels beyond what their leaders expect (Ishikawa, 2012; Lincoln, 2012). A manager’s behavior usually has a direct impact on the commitment, motivation, and employee performance (Simola, Barling, & Turner, 2012). Many factors such as organizational positions, styles of supervision, and communication shape what employees perceive about that organization and the leader above them. The direct relationship between managers or leaders and their employees creates a chance for the employees to assess how effective and efficient a manager’s leadership behavior seems (van Vugt & Ronay, 2014). Even though managers are mandated to seeing that an organization’s set goals are achieved, they also have to cultivate a good rapport between them and their subordinates. If employers and employees strongly hold opposing views about the quality, quantity, and schedule about an aspect, it gets hard to even accomplish an important objective. However, the use of effective supervision controls employee perception as supervisors become aware of the possible conditions that would cause mistaken perceptions. Additionally, the leader is able to know how to manage an employee’s perception by approaching it from the employee’s form of reality. What leaders perceive to be effective and efficient may be of a different view by their followers. This paper expounds on the various perceptions most employees have on their leaders or managers and the factors that influence those perceptions.

Understanding Perceptions

It is every leader’s wish that their followers have the right view about them and about the duties accorded to them. However, possessing the right perception is more than just being productive and competent in one’s duties but also the ability to accommodate diverse views and being able to associate positively with colleagues (Katsaros et al, 2014). Every leader possesses vision skills, interpersonal skills and technical know-how. Leaders are visionary for the company and for the employees they lead and hence set goals in line with the organization mission. A good relationship between leaders and their followers is evident when leaders pay attention to their followers and relate properly with them. A leader is one who leads by example. He does not command but rather shows how to achieve a set objective. As such, his followers will have a positive perception of him and will ensure a smooth work environment. However, the skill of perception for every leader is seldom forgotten. Every leader should have the right perception and that that perception is portrayed through communication. Managers and leaders may have honest concerns and optimal intentions for their employees but how they communicate those intentions may be perceived differently by their followers.

The Process of Perception

It is vital to understand the role of perception in every person. First, having an objective perception is difficult and almost impossible since every person has their way of interpreting information and situations. What is important is how a certain managerial decision will be perceived by the employees. As a leader sets objectives to be achieved by employees they need to bear in mind that they, the employees,  and other leaders are eager to see the managerial decision or course of action (Shaw, S, M. 2008).  Secondly, since perception is not reality, people will interpret their experiences based on factors not necessarily related to the current situation (Robbins et al 2004).

In the quest to understand perception, there is need to also understand the perceptual process. Perception creates a feel of the context around us and helps us act inside that environment. Many ways can be used to describe the perceptual process but psychologists describe perception as a result of three stages. Sensory simulation forms the first stage of perception. When an individual pays keen attention to their surroundings they are able to trigger their sensory nerves to focus on a previous memory (French et al. 2011, 84). If for instance, a song singing on the radio reminds you of something, someone or someplace special then there is a possibility your next reaction will be influenced by that thought.

The second perceptual stage is organizing the already received stimulus in the brain in a manner that is sensible. The brain may form a positive or negative response to the stimulus. If for instance while having a chat with a friend and your friend does not fully provide you with expected details, you may end up filling the blanks only for you to make a response that your friend did not expect. The final stage in the perceptual process is the interpretation and expression of the elicited thoughts. Such interpretation could be a smile, a choking or an urge to do something.

The three stages above exemplify that, dissatisfaction in the organization is a consequence of managers hearing what they expect the employees to say but not what the employees really want to say. Likewise, employees fail to hear what their managers say other than what they expect. To avoid negative perceptions by workers, leaders can apply the sandwich technique which is the changing of someone’s behavior by criticism. The leader can begin by praising the employee with some positive past activity then follow that with all the bad things the employee has done and lastly end the talk positively with a prospect for the employees work. The employee will leave a happy person simply because he did not change his expectations to deal with criticism as he, at last, heard what he expected to hear from his supervisor and thus ignored the criticism (Shaw, S, M. 2008).

Factors Affecting Employee Perception

There are many factors that influence an employee’s perception. These factors can be categorized into three major categories namely the situation, the target and the perceiver. For instance, factors regarding the perceiver can include the person’s attitude, experiences, interests, motivation, and expectations. On the other hand, situational factors could be the work setting, social setting and time. Lastly, factors associated with the target include motion, novelty, size, sounds, proximity and background.

The question lies on how the above categories relate to employment and employee behavior towards their seniors. In the situation category, employees may show perceptions based on the work setting and or social settings. Communication is important and acts as an aspect of organizational success. If a leader cannot clearly state the goal and ways to achieving such objective to his subordinates, he risks the chance of failing the organization. Fostering a culture of transparency will ensure that employees heed to their duties as they have a clear picture of what is expected of them.

Managers and leaders need to actively engage the employees if they were to achieve the expected business objectives. It is thus important to not only have correct practices but also right employee perceptions of those practices. Employees are more likely to be active if they realized that their leaders are motivated by the company’s concern for premium services and the well-being of employees and not the practice whose motivation is the desire to cut on costs and abuse employees (Shaw, S. 2008). When employees feel that among the organizational objectives is their well-being, they tend to be more productive and positive.

The work setting is another situational factor that creates different perceptions in employees. Does an organization offer incentives to best-performing employee? Does a project leader acknowledge his team input? A project manager who acknowledges extra work done by his member is likely to raise positive perceptions in his followers. However, if one of the team members is so actively involved and receives all praise, other members of the team may negatively perceive the leader as being bias against other members  (Sakiru et al. 2013). When employees find out that one of their colleagues is a favorite of their boss they are likely to raise negative perception about their leader and the colleague. When a colleague is given special attention at the workplace by his senior such as an undeserved promotion or better schedule, fellow colleagues become demoralized and unmotivated. As such, leaders ought to be cautious while deciding on what appraisals to offer an employee. It should be clearly the instance at which an individual is bound to receive a promotion or appraisal so that all employees are aware of the conditions involved in the appraisal process.

An individual’s perception is not always right and can lead to problems at the workplace. For instance, an employee can face the following forms of perception while performing their daily chores. The elemental attribution error which is the penchant to undervalue the input of external aspects and overvalue the persuasion of internal factors while judging on the behavior of others (Graham & Folkes, 2014, 214). Employees can also possess self-serving bias which implies attributing your successes to interior factors and blaming your own failures on exterior factors. Moreover, employees could suffer selective perception which is the tendency of being selective while interpreting what one sees based on their interests, background, attitudes and experience. Another notable perception is a projection in which an individual will attribute their own characteristics to those of other people at the workplace. Additionally, a number of employees are stereotypes while others arrive at conclusions based on a mere halo effect. Stereotypes have the tendency of judging someone based on an opinion of a group to which the said individual belongs. As for the halo effect persons, they often draw general impressions about another person by just observing that person’s single characteristic (Rosenzweig, 2014).

Take the example of the perception of an interviewer towards an interviewee. An interviewer may fall for one aspect of an interviewee and immediately assume the interviewee is a good fit for the organization (Collins, C 2007). The interviewer may as well find a characteristic with the applicant that squarely fits his own feature and eventually conclude that the interviewee is similar to him in all aspect. Having not considered other factors and due to the interviewer’s perception, the interviewee may end up securing a position at the organization. Likewise, a manager who favors a certain religion or group may fail to appraise an employee or advocate for the employee’s promotion since the employee is of a given religious group that he, the manager, hates. Such a decision would be as a result of stereotyping even though it’s against the law.

An employee may argue that his colleague is not good at their job and hence avoid working with them in the fear that he would be held responsible for their mistakes, as such the working relationship between the team members is ruined leading to overall organizational ineffectiveness and inefficiency.

Previous research has shown that employee perception of their work greatly influences their productivity and hence managers and leaders need to perform assessments on how workers make out of their jobs (Parker, O & Wright, L. 2001). In the same way, employee absenteeism, job satisfaction or turnover is all a result of employee perception about their job. When employees negatively perceive their duties there will be increased absenteeism, less job satisfaction, and recurrent turnover. It is only important to sail in the employees’ subjective perception of the workplace.

An employee’s social perception of his colleagues can affect his enthusiasm to effectively complete his work. Motivation within any organization increases if an employee has the perception that chances towards personal and professional advancement, upon effective task completion, is guaranteed. This motivation is further enhanced when an employee feels he is being involved in making decisions and setting various goals. However, the motivation may reduce if the employee perceives the lack of growth opportunity, failure to be involved or even lack of chance to showcase creativity.

But how can managers and leaders change or prevent negative perceptions in employees? You learn that a worker’s output and motivation can be highly affected by altering of tweaking the existing working conditions that are seen to cause negative organizational behavior. For instance, reducing work group sizes may make an employee feel to have greater input towards work output. Additionally, allowing time for social interaction during work schedules could improve the social bonds between coworkers leading to proper coordination and improved work interactions. As such, managers must endeavor to work hard to manage their own views of their followers by withholding their judgments until they have adequate supportive information about the employee’s work performance.

In a paper published by the American Review of Public Administration, an employee’s perception on how he affects the public can act as a motivation and a change to his other perceptions (Bright, L, 2008). If an employee finds out that his works are benefitting the general public, he increases his job satisfaction and becomes more committed to his organizational duties. The argument for this is that they feel that their energy is not being wasted into only benefitting the organization and themselves but rather also touching the lives of the public.

Reasons Why Employees Raise Negative Perceptions

A number of reasons can be discussed as to why employees raise negative perceptions of their leaders, managers and the organization as a whole. One major reason is the lack of proper communication in that employees become fearful of speaking forthrightly to their managers for fear of retribution (Tapke, J. 2011). Managers, however, can open multiple avenues of communicating with employees. They can make time for them, give them feedback, offer an ear and engage in constructive discussions with his subordinates. When there is communication breakdown, rumors will be propagated leading to productivity decline and loss of focus.

The issue of unfair pay also raises concerns. Do employers live up to fair-wage standards? The issue of wages does not lie on the employee rather on the HR department and the organization as a whole. As such, employers can only try to offer fair wages while workers have to emphasize on their experience, have positive performance reviews and work on improving their education (Parker, O & Wright, L. 2001).

As the United States Secretary of Labor noted, today’s workforce is always changing jobs, such that the average American will have undertaken ten jobs between the ages of 18 and 38. In her view, about a third of America’s workforce change jobs yearly so as to take advantage of better openings. Every worker is fearful of their job security as organizations have moved onto outsourcing workforce, downsizing and globalization trends making the employees feel invaluable to an organization.

Another concern by employees that leads to negative perceptions at the workplace is due to under appreciation. It is important that managers appreciate the roles of their employees either at groups or as a whole. Appreciation does not only imply increasing their salary but also other means such as introducing half-day on Friday to usher in the weekend. As such, an employee will feel appreciated and ensure they are more productive which translates to the whole organization productivity.

When an employee is overworked by their seniors, they perceive their managers as being unfair and inconsiderate (Tse, H & Ronay, R, 2013). At times an employee may work beyond the set time so as to beat a given deadline. However, if overworking becomes the daily aspect within an organization such that the employee begins suffering from fatigue, insomnia, and other physical and mental ailments, the employee’s productivity reduces. They further become dissatisfied by their positions and will either opt to quit or seek other avenues to eliminate their leader from their positions (Tapke, J. 2011). It is thus important for managers to set achievable goals and objectives that give chance for ample time of research, work and play for the employees.

Manager and leader incompetence raises myriad perceptions from employees. Most companies have that one person that is the talk by others when they shake hand and begin asking how a certain leader secured their position (Branham, L, 2012). Was it out of favoritism? There are lots of unqualified bosses illegally holding their positions (Vinkenburg et al, 2014). If it was the case of an unqualified employee, the boss may have to dismiss the employee. However, since an employee cannot dismiss the boss, they can only work under their supervision even though they feel that they may be more qualified than their leaders are.


This paper has broadly explored how employees develop their perceptions about their managers and illustrated factors that lead to those perceptions. We can, therefore, wrap up that if employees have a positive attitude towards their leaders they perform better in their duties. It is the duty of the management to put in place practices that develop employees’ positive job perceptions. One way to ensure that is by having the correct managers in all departments and performing continuous training on the management as well as appraising employees the correct way. Additionally, managers and leaders should openly share information about the organizational goals and the role employees play in achieving those objectives. Employees need to feel as part of a larger community and that their output is a valuable input in some other department. Research proves that what the employees perceive an organization to be doing is vital than what actually happens and thus to improve their perception, employees need to be involved in the process, be consulted and have their contribution implemented.

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