sara canaday who are youIt’s the classic battle of Perception versus Reality. We all hope that our “messages” (verbal and nonverbal) are received by others the way we intended them, but many different factors can prevent that from happening. We may not be aware that our behavior or tone is inadvertently contradicting our message. The “disconnect” can take many forms. Here’s the problem: good intentions don’t count in the workplace. Perception always wins, hands down.

We judge ourselves based on our intentions, while others judge us based on our behaviors. More specifically, they make judgments based on their perceptions of our behavior. And the way we are perceived determines whether or not we get the job, the promotion or the raise.

In many of my blogs this summer, I’ve been highlighting the blind spots that can unknowingly cause smart, well-meaning professionals to be perceived in negative ways by their managers, colleagues and co-workers. These are not the clueless office buffoons. I’m talking about the talented people with excellent potential who simply don’t recognize that an underlying attitude or subtle behavior is sabotaging their professional reputations and their careers.

While I’ve discussed some of the most common reputation blind spots that can damage careers, there are many more. It’s all a matter of perception. Do any of these people sound familiar?

• Those who consider themselves colorful, dramatic and bold, but others see them as attention seeking, poor listeners or rebellious.

• Those who feel dutiful, loyal and accommodating, while others see them as reluctant to act independently and lacking confidence.

• Those who see themselves as decisive and quick to think on their feet, although their co-workers view them as inflexible or uninterested in others’ thoughts and ideas.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Blind spots take many different forms, and we all have them. So how can you identify your own blind spots and work to correct them? It calls for looking at yourself honestly, inviting others you respect to give you feedback, and being willing to make some changes.

Understanding how blind spots can derail your career is usually a great incentive to look long and hard at your thought processes and behaviors in the workplace. Spend some time thinking about how you’d like to be perceived. What’s your ideal reputation? What are your intentions for making an impact on others?

The next step is reaching out to people who have observed your performance and are willing to give you candid feedback on how you are perceived. If the prospect of measuring your reputation prompts you to immediately brace yourself and assume the crash position, you might be pleasantly surprised. Gathering feedback isn’t exclusively about identifying your shortcomings. You may very well uncover some hidden strengths you never recognized but your colleagues have noticed and appreciated. Whether the comments you collect are positive or negative, push yourself to think of them as a tool for your professional development. By positioning your feedback as a valuable asset rather than a judgment or criticism, you’ll be able to analyze it objectively and apply it in a much more productive manner.

If you discover that your actual reputation doesn’t match up with what you intend to project, you have identified a professional blind spot. Once you can actually see these hidden hazards, you can take action to close the gaps.

What blind spots are holding back your career? Are you ready to find out and take charge of your professional reputation? That’s precisely the focus of my new book: You –- According to Them: Uncovering the blind spots that impact your reputation and your career. I hope you’ll order one today. I’d love to get your feedback! ( or