7 Ways to Improve Your Work Reputation


Developing a strong work reputation is a bit like tending a garden: Your commitment to maintaining it over time is what yields the best results. If your work rep needs some fine-tuning, however, it's not too late to make a few improvements. Here's how. (See also: 15 Ways to Suck Up at Work That Won't Make You Feel Slimy)

1. Prove Your Intent to Be Taken Seriously

If you've earned a not-so-flattering reputation around the office, it's time to do damage control. In other words, take Missy Elliot's advice: Flip it and reverse it.

"The best way to improve your work reputation is to prove your desired reputation with actions," advises Michelle Burke, marketing supervisor for WyckWyre Food Industry HR Systems. "Are you looking to be reputable in project management or leadership? Take a project and over-deliver on all expectations to prove yourself. Have you been late a lot and want to change that view? Show up extra early continually to prove you are working on past mistakes."

It's not easy to undo some of the more unsavory work blunders in your past, but it's also not impossible. Dedicate yourself to changing your actions and attitude, and others will start to see and respect your efforts.

2. Consistently Meet Your Deadlines

Just like Rodney Dangerfield, you'll get "no respect" if you're always missing deadlines — especially if it's because you tend to manage your time poorly. Get back on track and start turning things in on or before the due date, without exception.

The quickest way to improve your reputation with your peers and supervisors alike is to execute successfully on the timeline you have laid out — and if you can't, to openly and proactively communicate the cause behind the delayed execution," says Kathryn Prusinski, VP of integration and development at Vision Alignment. "Reputation in large part is based upon two things: One, your style — the way you approach your job, and two, whether or not you do what you say you will. Failing on the second half instantaneously impacts your credibility, regardless of how charming you may be in your approach."

3. Under Promise and Over Deliver

"Man, when he say he be there; he be there." That's a quote from an old episode of Spencer for Hire, which means, in essence, keep your promises — no excuses.

Words to live by according to Boston-based photographer Matt McKee.

"Under promise and over deliver by delivering the goods the day before you promised them, under budget, and better than they expected — because you set the expectations," he says. "And always say thank you. It doesn't cost anything and makes everyone feel appreciated."

4. Keep Your Criticism to Yourself

It's easy to be a Negative Nancy (or Ned) when things don't go your way at work, but the office is the last place you want to let your salty attitude show. No one at work wants to hear complaints and you may come off as a whiner. On that note, don't take on a new responsibility unless you're confident that you can deliver. 

5. Invite Your Coworkers to Activities Outside of Work

This is one of my favorite suggestions on how to improve your reputation at work because it's totally how I roll.

"Someone can improve their reputation by being involved in activities outside of work and by letting your coworkers know about it," says Brian Vanderlip, director of compliance analysis at Zenith Education Group. "Being part of a non-profit, starting a side business, or even having interesting hobbies can increase someone's work reputation by saying 'Here is something I'm passionate about, talk to me if you want to know more.' Not everyone can be an expert at something within their company; generally those individuals are already identified, but you can establish yourself as an expert on something outside of work."

Yes, yes, and yes. I'm definitely that guy who will invite you to after-work activities so we can form a better work bond. Besides, if I'm spending most of my waking hours with my coworkers, shouldn't we know a little more about each other than what flavor coffee we like?

6. Engage in Active Listening

Guilty, party of one.

I have quite a bad reputation about never remembering anyone's name the first time I meet them — usually because I just don't listen. It's in one in ear and out the other, and then I have to embarrass myself by asking a second time. Thus, active listening is as much a lesson for me as it may be for you. And Timothy J. Trudeau, active listening enthusiast and CEO of Syntax Creative, is about to school us.

"The most important thing someone can do for me is to make it clear to me that they understand (not necessarily agree) what I am saying," he says. "Active listening — which is simply repeating back to the person what they said and how you understand it, as part of your answer — will either help the person you're talking with feel listened to (which is one of the best ways to build a relationship) or it will allow the person to try again, and differently, to help you understand what they're saying. This is important. Things don't get done, and people are not motivated when they don't feel heard or understood. When someone has a history of making you feel heard or listened to, that's the person you go to when you have a choice."

7. Be Firm But Kind

You want your coworkers or employees to respect you if you're in a position of responsibility, but that doesn't give you authority to be a jerk. Try to be firm but flexible, and always come from a positive and genuine place.

"Disciplined kindness requires a broad approach," says writer and editor Susan Froetschel. "For example, don't brag about vacations or gifts or possessions when colleagues might be struggling or worried about losing their jobs. Listen to others and offer your best professional advice to keep them calm while supporting the overall organization. Do not gossip, and try to tamp down gossip by other employees by gently pointing out how observations might be unsubstantiated. Work hard, look for solutions, and be positive — because colleagues, competitors, or any of their acquaintances can someday be in a position to hire or extend special recognition."

Words to live by.

How do you brighten up your reputation at work?

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