Some managerial tasks are centered very firmly in reality, such as the four functions of management in which planning objectives, allocating resources, staffing and analysis control are fundamentally based on the closest understanding of reality in the firm, the market and the economy that management can attain. Yet some managerial tasks do elevate the perception of reality over reality.
Perception is defined as how an individual person selects, organizes, and interprets data input, based on sensory or cognitive understanding of the world around them, in order to organize and make sense of that world. Perception, then, can have a very different basis and outcome for varying individual.
To paint this in broad strokes, individuals from different national, ethnic, and religious cultures working in international organizations will bring very different perceptual bases to their employment culture and derive very different end result outcomes of perceptions than some other individuals (Phillips and Sackmann, "Managing in an Era of Multiple Cultures"). To paint is fine strokes, individuals from the same cultural background will have different personality make-ups and background experiences so will have different perceptions of elements of the organizational culture than will other individuals.
Perceptional attunements and biases are relevant in both directions in the organizational environment.
- Managers need to be aware of the particularities of perception in top-down directions when dealing with employees and managing their own perceptions of employees and while simultaneously being aware of employee perceptions of the manager.
- Managers need to be aware of particularities of perception in bottom-up directions when dealing with upper management and managing how they themselves are perceived and how they perceive their upper managers.
Managerial functions may be fixed firmly in reality but managerial roles of leadership and collaboration or cooperation are fixed just as firmly in perceptions. Another example is the conflicting perceptions younger generations of workers just entering the workforce, such as Generation Y, generate by their differences.
Generation Y, being unique in the history of the world because of the proliferation of electronic technology, faces difficulties in how they are perceived by managers and further difficulties in how they perceive managers. To illustrate, while managers' perception is often that Gen Y lacks respects for others, Gen Y perception is that they receive no respect. (Randall S. Hansen, "Perception vs. Reality: 10 Truths About The Generation Y Workforce").
At times managers do not need to be concerned with reality as much as they need to be concerned with perception.