Don’t put me in that box! (Part 1)

One of the topics I research is how our thoughts about how others see us (also called ‘meta-perceptions’), can influence us when at work. Takes a second to get your head around. For example, lets say you’re working in your team, and you have the feeling that everyone puts you in a certain box (I always seemed to get the “young woman” label). Or maybe you think that your boss just doesn’t recognize your leadership abilities, or that your colleagues tag you as the “mom” because you have to leave work ‘on time’ to get your kids from daycare. Things like this can influence how you feel toward others, how much you like working with them, and even how well you perform on the job.

Not that I think that we should overly concern ourselves with our colleague’s views of us, but unfortunately in some cases it tends to matter. Your boss thinks you’re incompetent?  In your latest 360-degree feedback you find that your employees think you’re cold and unapproachable? Things like this might impact your career trajectory, and you might not even know about them. So worth considering.

Along those lines, some of my research involved interviewing senior women leaders (managers, directors, CEOs, and board members), working in traditionally ‘male’ organizations (think oil and gas, finance, construction & engineering) about a few topics box100gthat (at least, I find) are really interesting. This was one of the most fun parts of the doing a PhD – actually talking with other human beings.

A few of the questions or topics we chatted about:

1.  Do think at all about how your colleagues see you?

2. If so, how do you think they see you? (e.g., say you’re in a board meeting, and you’re looking at yourself from the perspective of your peers, what do you see?). Are their views accurate? Inaccurate?

3. Do you ever try to influence the way you’re perceived (e.g, any strategies for managing your image?)

Unfortunately I didn’t interview executive men about the same issues — I think contrasting the two groups would be super interesting as I imagine there are gender differences.  There were definitely trends across the women I interviewed and in part 2, I’ll follow up with some of those trends!


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