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Managing Your Reputation at Work

Does your reputation make a difference to your work life and success?

You bet it does!

When it comes to your job, your reputation as a reliable, capable, trustworthy, and conscientious person may be more important than the quantity or quality of work you do.

Your reputation is formed by what you say, how you speak, and how you deal with others.

Changing Your Reputation At Work

— Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

A "good" reputation encompasses collegial and respectful behavior toward others. People with good reputations are often described with the following phrases: "a nice person," "easy to work with," "trustworthy," "honorable," “honest," "optimistic," "conscientious," and "helpful."

If you have a "bad" reputation, chances are you've been described as "abrasive," "pessimistic," "negative," "overbearing," "difficult," "unreliable," "selfish," "deceptive," or worse. You get the picture.

What is the impact of a negative reputation? Research over the years strongly confirms that more employees are fired because they don't get along with co-workers and bosses.

So, What's My Reputation?

Start with the assumption that people seldom give you their honest opinions of your reputation—and this includes bosses! It's a good idea to get direct feedback, but don't count on hard-hitting opinions, even from friends. Still, you may get a share of useful information.

Some organizations provide personal assessment or feedback tools. Human Resources can arrange a confidential collection of personal "style" or reputation assessments from an appropriate group of supervisors, co-workers, and clients. Professional development counselors evaluate the feedback and provide it to you in a confidential, positive, and constructive fashion. It may not feel fun or very good at all, but it's honest and helpful. Talk to your boss to see if you can take advantage of this type of assessment.

In addition, there's your periodic performance review. Let your boss know you welcome honest feedback about your interpersonal style and reputation. A capable boss will provide feedback in a constructive manner.

Finally, be honest with yourself. If you know that you exhibit attributes and behaviors that are counterproductive and contribute to a negative reputation, get to work on understanding why you behave and react this way. Then set about cleaning up your act. Linda Barrington, coauthor of a Conference Board study about worker satisfaction, says, "Workers (also) have to figure out what they should be doing to be the most engaged in their jobs and the most productive."

Can You Change Your Reputation?

It's not too late to benefit from polishing your reputation and work behavior even if you're 55, 65, or 75. There's no doubt in my mind that working today can be far more stressful, unappreciated, and insecure than at any time in years. If only for your peace of mind, consider the ways you could be more valuable at work. You can only gain from the effort.

Your Reputation "Makeover"

  1. Accept the reality that your behavior and interpersonal relationships have a major impact on your effectiveness and success.
  2. Identify the behaviors and habits of the people who are most respected and capable in their jobs. Follow their examples.
  3. Make a sincere effort to seek out feedback from bosses, co-workers, clients, and vendors.
  4. Reflect on how you react to others at work. Smile and be pleasant.
  5. Improve your work habits and discipline. Be predictable, reliable, timely, and helpful.
  6. Think before speaking and acting. Weigh the consequences of your speech and actions.
  7. Remember who the boss is. You will encounter good bosses and horrible bosses. Your job is always to put them at ease and have them know they can count on your work and support.

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