Employee Perceptions: Heroes, Villains and Martyrs

In today’s inter-generational work environment, some people in the diverse workforce approach their daily routine differently. For example, some of staffers may show great initiative while others simply wait for assignments to come to them. Still others avoid taking risks maybe out of concern that their ideas may not yield the desired results. Often employees are judged based on the path they use to take on work place projects.

As result, we may create perceptions of our peers based on first impressions that may not always be rooted in fact. These perceptions are based on our feelings and may not always be accurate. For example, one type of work place perception is the “office hero.” You know the type- they are always “leaping over tall desks to defeat office issues in a single bound.” They may often brag about accomplishing things on behalf of others by doing solo work. Then the person maligns their peers with a statement about “stepping up to meet the challenge where others fail to do so.” An example of this was displayed on a recent episode of the TV show “Suits” in which the character Luis Litt tried to make himself the hero to impress another partner at his law firm.

This type of fabricated “heroism” can create animosity among colleagues, especially those always singled out as not contributing to the overall good of team, despite their best efforts.

Another work place personality is the “martyr.” Their daily diatribe is focused on being burdened with too much work while others simply do nothing. Every time this person speaks, it seems like the song “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” begins wafting through your mind. Their mantra is a “woeisme” scenario where they distill story after story about being the only ones working hard no matter the size of the office or team.

For every office, there is a perceived villain in each work place narrative. This person or persons are identified as the sole reason for halting progress. Sometimes when stories about heroes, villains and martyrs continue to spin through cubicle havens, people may begin to think that what is perceived is actually reality.

On the TV show suits, often the character of Luis Litt lashes out to hurt others at work when his effort to be the hero and the martyr simultaneously does not work. His lack of emotional intelligence can be detrimental to others. Also, consider the fact that sometimes we try to make ourselves the hero of the office narrative as a way to bring attention to our overlooked work and aspirations. As a result, when some perceives their coworkers always as the villain, martyr or hero they tend to forget that they missed out on an opportunity to get to know the truth about that person via real world work experiences.

So, what can be done to reduce or stop the cycle of inaccurate work place personalities based on perceptions? Get up from your desk and get to know the other people inside and outside of your team. Volunteer for tasks that will allow you to follow others lead instead of always wanting to lead the pack to greatness. Learn more about your colleagues’ motivations and begin to share insight into how you operate as well. Listen to their concerns and genuinely find the opportunity to assist your team members when they feel over worked. Then share information about opportunities that will allow both of you to grow professionally.

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Esther Anderson

This blog is right on time. It emcompasses ideas and thoughts that many are thinking, but are afraid to express. Bravo for such a timely blog!!!!