Can A Manager Recover From A Bad First Impression?

by drjim on January 17, 2019

Just because you slipped up does not mean that you can't redeem yourself

Just because you slipped up does not mean that you can’t redeem yourself
Image Credit: gianstep

We are all familiar with the phrase “you only get one chance to make a first impression”. However, is that really true? I think that we all realize that if we make a mistake when we’re meeting someone for the first time, it can do damage to how they view us. The good news is that it is possible to use your manager skills to redeem how they view you. However, as managers we need to realize that fixing this problem is going to take effort, time, and some clever skills on our part.

Steps You Can Take To Fix A Bad Start

One of the problems that we can run into right off the bat when we make a bad first impression is the simple fact that first impressions are actually quite sticky. Our manager training teaches us that other people’s first impressions of us can be based on biased thought patterns. There is a an effect called the primacy effect that occurs when the first few things that people notice about you go on to influence what they learn about you later on.

Just to make things even more difficult for you, there is another bias called conformational bias that can cause people that you’ve made a poor first impression with to only notice the details about you that confirm what they already believe about you. Simply put, people see what they want to see.

One way that you can go about fixing a relationship that started with a poor first impression is to find ways to spend more time with that person. Just exactly how you go about doing this is up to you. One way that you can spend more time with the person would be to go to the gym with them or even eat lunch with them. Your goal here is to build familiarity.

Repairing A Bad First Impression

When you have created a bad first impression, what you are going to have to do is to attempt to offer a lot of evidence that that impression is not correct. Showing up late for an event can only be corrected by showing up early for several events going forward. Correcting a bad first impression is going to take some patience on your part. Sadly, there is no magic cure that will erase the bad first impression that you have created.

In order to overcome a poor first impression is going to be your responsibility. Once way that you can go about doing this is to search for common bonds that you may have with the person who has the poor impression of you. Shared interests such as music, sports, or even cooking can allow you to build bridges that can help to repair the damage that you’ve done. Additionally, using humor to make light of the situation can help both parties to move beyond it. If you poke fun at the mistake that you made, then you can help everyone get over it.

When we make a mistake and leave someone with a bad first impression of ourselves, we need to take action. We can follow up and send them proof that we are skilled and do have talents that our mistake may have hidden. We can also make an offer to help the other person reach some goal that they are working on. By doing this you may be able to get them to accept you. Finally, if you take the time to open up to the person that you’ve gotten off to a bad start with and share details about your experiences with them you may be able to win them over. By doing this you may be able to generate empathy in them for you.

What All Of This Means For You

When we meet someone for the first time, we have an opportunity to make a first impression with them. We’d like to do this successfully all the time; however, life does not always work out that way. Sometimes we screw things up and make a bad first impression that is going to make team building that much harder to do. Life is not over. When this happens, we need to get busy and see what we can do to fix things.

One of the big problems with first impressions is that they are sticky and difficult to overcome. People will keep seeing us the way that their first impressions led them to see us. We can fix things simply by spending more time with the person and allowing them to discover who we really are. When a bad first impression is made, we can use evidence to show the other party that we’re better than they may believe. If you can find out what you have in common with the other party, then you can use that connect with them. Opening up and sharing with the other person can cause their poor first impression of you to change.

No, making a bad first impression is not a good thing. In fact, if this happens then you may have just signed yourself up for a lot of work in order to fix it. The good news is that if you are willing to make the effort, a poor first impression can be overcome. Don’t let first impressions stop you!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If you make a poor first impression with someone, do you think that there is any way that you can do a “reset” and start over with them?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Just exactly how comfortable are you telling your boss or the people that you work with exactly what you think about them or their ideas? Honesty is very important to helping teams operate correctly, but it sure is hard to find the manager skills needed to do it right. Teams need candor from their employees, but managers must take real steps to make clear they’re open to bad news and contrary opinions. Getting everyone comfortable in doing this can be a real challenge for managers.

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