Build the right reputation

It always comes as a shock to find out that others see us quite differently than we see ourselves. More often than not, it can be distressing, particularly at work. “I don’t get it. I’m not that way.” Maybe not. But it happens. And when it does, a bad rep can stick, thanks to word-of-mouth and social media.

In today’s highly competitive workplace, reputation makes a difference. Your competition can be down the hall, across the country, or 10 feet away. It can be someone who wants your customer or your job – maybe both.

When it comes to your reputation, hoping for the best isn’t good enough. It leaves it in the hands of others. Your reputation needs to be shaped and managed, so it reflects the way you want to be viewed. Here are some ways to go about deliberately shaping how others see you:

Take on extra work. Sure, you’ve got more than enough on your plate, so why pile on anything more? It lets you demonstrate your ability to shoulder a heavier load. And that doesn’t go unnoticed.

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Meet deadlines. “I didn’t have enough time,” may be the top excuse for failing to meet deadlines, as if something beyond our control intervened and caused us to fail. What really happens is that we run out of time – and that’s due to poor planning.

Come up with ideas to improve something. It isn’t that most people don’t have ideas; it’s simply they’re afraid to present them. What will people think? Maybe it’s stupid? Take a chance. You’ll be surprised.

Express appreciation to someone who helps. We all get busy and move from one thing to another, and before we know it, several people have come to our aid. Just another day at the office. It shouldn’t be. Make it a point to say thanks.

Give credit to others. It seems as if it diminishes us if we make a point to give a “shout out” to a co-worker. But just the opposite is true. It says we understand what it means to be a team player.

Pitch in when someone is out. Whether it’s taking messages, answering questions, or solving a problem, it says you have their back. It won’t be forgotten.

Ask questions. We’ve all been in meetings where stuff goes by that’s new, unclear or confusing. Ask a question. Don’t assume you’re the only one who didn’t get it. It shows you’re thinking.

Be careful about complaining. When there’s nothing else to do, it’s complain time, particularly at lunch or after work. Complaining can be toxic and those who do it put their reputation at risk.

Welcome new co-workers. There’s a reason to be the first: First impressions are indelible and you will be remembered.

Go out of your way to help customers. It’s an opportunity. Customers like to talk about the times when someone did something special for them.

Admit it when you’re wrong. It’s easy to say, “Everybody makes mistakes” or “I’m just human” when we get something wrong. But passing it off is quite different from taking ownership and saying, “I was wrong.” Both impact one’s reputation.

Step back to get a bigger picture. What’s going on right around us holds our attention, blinding us to the bigger picture, distorting our thinking, and causing us to react inappropriately. It helps to step back so we can see more clearly.

Pay attention to details. Nothing is more disruptive, embarrassing and frustrating than the wrong address or price, a phone number that’s one digit off, a misspelling, or something that was left out. Reputations are made on accuracy; the opposite is also true.

Don’t make excuses. It’s quite simple: the opposite of making excuses is taking responsibility. Either way, there’s a reward, one you want and one you don’t.

When all is said and done, your reputation is what you make it.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer. Contact him at or