How to Make Your Idiot Boss More Perceptive
The boss who never has a good idea. The colleague who’s a serious Debbie Downer. The employee who is always so positive you wonder if they ever really evaluate anything. You can’t change them, but you can change how you perceive them, and subsequently, your relationship with them.
The question is, how?
I recently came across a fun technique that can help. It takes about 30 seconds and you can do it from anywhere. Try it right now. Look around the room. For the next 10-15 seconds, notice everything that is white. Now read the next sentence and then immediately close your eyes. Remember everything that is green.
If you didn’t cheat, you are going to have a very hard time coming up with more than one thing that’s green, though you could easily list ten things that are white. This is because when we are looking for something specific, it is very easy to ignore everything else. It also shows when we suddenly tune into something, it appears to happen more frequently. This is not a personality flaw; it’s human nature. In fact, this phenomenon even has a name: observational perception bias. The simplest example of this is something that happened to me recently. Jack, one of our partners, complimented me on a pair of sunglasses I was wearing, the same ones that I’ve had for over two years. He noticed them now because he had spent the weekend shopping for sunglasses. I wonder what he would have noticed if he had spent the weekend shopping for wrinkle cream?
There’s a part two for this exercise. It requires paying more attention to the people around you, especially your boss, employees and colleagues. Instead of noticing every time Debbie Downer says something that feels depressing or negative, see how many times she says something positive or even neutral. When you are with your “idiot boss,” notice every time he says something smart or insightful. As you do this, your perception of them will change. And once the way you perceive them changes, the way you interact with them will, too. View this as an experiment and have some fun with it.
Over time, you’ll see that thinking of Debbie Downer as, well, Debbie Downer, blinds you to anything positive she may be saying. Calling the “idiot boss” that name prevents you from seeing any signs of actual good judgment. As you change your perceptions of the person, your entire relationship can change, and change quickly.
Who in your life have you put into a category? How can you change that? I’d love to hear about your experiments in the comments.