By Jon Michail
In business your reputation is of the utmost importance. It is how people and potential customers perceive your business, brand, products and services. You already know about yourself, and you know how you want you to be perceived.
However it’s rare that you will be given honest feedback. People who don’t know you well have little reason to share, and those who do may be wary of causing offence. That can leave you with a fuzzy idea of how you are actually perceived.
Your reputation is a combination of what others think and feel about you, dependent on your work and how you interact with them based on experience. Also what they have heard about you – true or not. Your reputation is important because it ultimately determines if you are successful or unsuccessful.
Sometimes your reputation is information that can be easily accessed, for example, LinkedIn is a great networking site as it can lead employers to go searching or even asking your work colleagues questions about you so they can potentially hire.
Remember human resources professionals in this day and age will check social media references for the positives and negatives, both in writing and images. Reference checks are no longer the be-all-and-end-all of employee research.
Your reputation in the workplace has great impact on your professional development. If you are up for a promotion, be prepared to have your reputation scrutinised.
Ways to maintain your work reputation:
Offer opinions… respectfully
You have been hired because your company saw potential in you and your skills. So you know that your opinion will be valued. However, you must remember to give it with respect and tact. Always be aware that each organisation has its own politics, no matter what you think.
Ask management if they have considered doing something another way, and try to get to grips with company policy rather than coming in and flat out disparaging the status quo.
There are often very good reasons why things are done the way they are, but if not, you still want to tread gently. Yet confidently at the same time – it’s a balancing act, I know. You want to be seen as forward thinking, not to insult your boss or your new company. Nobody likes a know it all.
Undertake something without being asked
One way to gain a good reputation is by showing initiative. Look around, not just for the projects that interest you, but for the tasks everyone else has decided to avoid.
It might be something small like computer updates that never get done because no one bothers to turn their computer off at the end of the day. It might be a database that is messy and woefully out of date, or an online presence that is disjointed and inadequate for today’s world.
Put in those extra miles and show that you’re not afraid of hard work or mundane tasks. Step up and get ahead.
If you are the boss and want to show appreciation for your employees, how about a surprise breakfast, or even a go home early day? Just to say thank you. It’s often the simple, unexpected things that your employees will remember, causing them to speak highly of you and therefore maintain work loyalty and also your work reputation.
Earning respect before asking for any special requests
Sometimes life just gets in the way. If you have to ask to go home early or have an extra day off, the request will come across far better if you already have a good work reputation.
It’s best not to make this a regular thing, and you must earn these privileges. A smart boss knows when credit is due and certainly knows the difference between an honest employee and a serial sickie slacker.
Remember it is business not personal
You can gain some amazing friends through work, but remember to start all relationships professionally.
We live in highly contradictory times. Work relationships and standing are expected to be more relaxed than in times gone by. At the same time everything is expected to be very P.C.
Avoid getting carried away, especially if you are invited out for lunch or after work drinks. Don’t overindulge in alcohol or overshare. Things always have a way of coming back – good or bad.
Work it out
Asking good questions is always a wise move when you want to be sure about something. But remember to only ask questions when necessary, and learn to figure things out independently.
You don’t want to rely on your colleagues constantly. And always help them out as much as you can. Being a team player is always good for your reputation.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Warren Buffet
Now let’s look at ways you’re sabotaging your reputation.
Only caring what the boss thinks
Yes your boss matters, but remember that your colleagues matter too. You don’t want them to turn against you. Being labelled a snitch is not the best way to build your reputation. Being alienated doesn’t get you far either.
Refusing to adapt
Employers try to match employees to their company culture as much as possible. It doesn’t always work out. For example, you might be comfortable sharing what you did over the weekend whilst your co-workers like to keep it professional – or vice-versa. Without even realising it you could be damaging your reputation.
Not saying much (or too much)
There’s a fine art to balancing saying just the right amount and saying more than necessary. The key is to learn to be able to contribute the right amount.
Avoid trying to steal the show, it’s about being able to listen as well. But if you say too little, some may think you have little to bring to the table. Be consistent.
When it comes to your reputation it’s the small things that count. Be it chewing gum or smoking, talking too much gossip over at a co-worker’s desk, telling them about the drugs you took at the weekend music festival, or just being away from your desk too much. People take notice.
A lot of the time it’s the most subtle things that are holding you back from success.
Remember, reputation is something which is nurtured and maintained. It is your most important asset, so it’s in your best interests to make it the best it can be!
Let me know when this has proved true for you. I’d love to hear your thoughts!