Perception in Public Administration

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Emotional intelligence has been one of the faster-growing conceptualizations in social science since the 1990s. Research shows that the scientific development of emotional intelligence as a tool to drive thinking, behavior, and performance is an essential skill to have and manage. In the world we are currently living, fulfilled with a multigenerational culture, societies currently affected by drastic socioeconomic and sociopolitical changes, a pandemic, and workplaces culture on a fast-racetrack to embrace virtual workplaces environments, emotional intelligence is a set of essential skills to help us deal with the uncertainty and insecurities of changes.

Public administrators are civil service employees. They are employed by the government of the United States—local, state, or federal government, and for the most part, their salary is paid by taxpayers’ money. Their responsibility is not only toward the government, but also the community. Because of the nature of public service employment, civil servants’ behavior and actions are frequently and closely scrutinized by the public. More so as public servants moved into virtual environments. Those are external factors adding to already organically stressful situations.

How can public servants manage the stress and pressure of dealing with public scrutiny in a constantly changing society and workplace environments? The answer should be simple: do what is right, honorably, and ethically appropriate for you and your community. However, the problem of doing what is right, honorably, morally, and ethically appropriate for the public and the community relies on a proficiency that is extremely subjective to the perception of each individual.

The problem with perception is that it is a cognitive trait in which the human mind is set on a conscious state based on events that induce a perceptual awareness. That perception is not always aligned with the reality of the facts. This type of behavior is also referred to as situational behavior. In emotional intelligence, one’s perception is deeply influenced by the information found in our environment. The way we perceive that information and how we accurately identify such information has the greatest impact on how we use that information to communicate with others, make decisions, and solve problems. Likewise, that information is essential when right, honorably, and ethically appropriate. Information is subjective, and that subjectivity is open to the interpretation of one’s perception.

For a public service servant, to do what is right—by the general and consensual law of social behavior—it takes transparency, awareness, and adaptability. Doing what is right, honorably, morally, and ethically appropriate has nothing to do with one’s perception, and all to do with the logical and reasonable sequence of facts. Those are proficiencies cognitively attached to transparency and awareness. Those are proficiencies closely related to openness relating to other people, the things we do, and the little efforts of making a good impression under one person’s perception. Those proficiencies make you invisible to certain compromising situations, as one will not hide behind others’ wrongful and inappropriate actions. On this matter, research shows that “Transparency is normally defined as the thesis that reflection on, or introspection of, what it is like to have an experience does not reveal that we are aware of experiences themselves, but only of their mind-independent objects.” Another factor influencing those cognitive characteristics is awareness.

Awareness is the perception and knowledge of an action that generates some form of information. Awareness is the accurate “reportability of something perceived or known widely used as a behavioral index of conscious awareness.” It is that awareness that gives us the perceptual acceptance of experience. It gives us a “perceptual awareness of ordinary mind-independent objects.” In emotional intelligence, awareness involves recognizing and understanding our environment. Awareness is the ability to perceive, understand, and differentiate between the subtleties of our own perception, the reality of the world around us. Awareness involves putting your perception to the side while being mindful and observant of the transparency and clearness of the facts, the source of information, and the impact that such information has on our actions. It is the ability to recognize and understand what is right, honorably, and ethically appropriate for all members of our society–equally, impartially, and correspondingly.

Adapting to radical social changes takes time. Learning how to do what is right, honorably, and ethically appropriate, even in a virtual environment, takes longer. It takes learning to differentiate and set apart the cognitive difference of one’s perception, and the reality of the facts, even when one does not agree with such facts, “For we think of an illusion as any perceptual situation in which a physical object is actually perceived, but in which that object perceptually appears other than it really is.” Remember that your perception is influenced by your background, personality, education, socioeconomic status, personality, moods, and emotions. When analyzing the facts of any given situation, be sure to do a self-reality check and identify how the factors mentioned above are influencing your own perception. After, do a process of elimination. It will help you clearly understand the facts of any given situation and help you align what is right, honorably, morally, and ethically appropriate with the reality of the facts.

Iberkis Faltas

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