When people ask what can hurt their reputation, I point out that they’d be better off asking how they can ensure that people see them in a positive light. And my response to that would include avoiding reputation spoilers like these:
- Do the opposite of what you say you’re going to do: It’s easy to do when you’re busy, but if you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you can’t, briefly explain why and describe what you are willing to do instead.
- Bad mouth an employee or colleague: Believe me, there’s no such thing as “off the record.” So cast everyone in as favorable a light as possible. You’ll demonstrate maturity and integrity. Plus, you’re likely to encourage similar behavior, which promotes a healthier, more productive workplace.
- Say yes when you really mean no: Nothing makes life harder than having to disengage from a commitment. Get in the habit of saying, “Let me give that some thought.” This will help you buy a time to convey a proper “no thanks” message.
- Allow rumors to spread: When somebody’s speaking ill of you, take control of the situation quickly. Say, “I need your help to clear up a potential misunderstanding. It seems conversations are occurring about me that aren’t factual. What can you tell me about your participation?”
- Wear ugly shoes: Appearance matters more to positive first impressions than anything else. And yet we often forget how important it is to making second, third and ongoing impressions. Do yourself a favor: Wear business-style shoes and attire every day. You will exude confidence and boost credibility without speaking a single word.
- Shy away from bad news: When under scrutiny, always speak directly to the offended party and you’ll have a better chance of a making a favorable impression.
Some people thrive on risky behavior. (Think Donald Trump.) But I firmly believe in learning the art of diplomacy. That way you’ll be practiced in the interpersonal techniques and language skills needed to make—and maintain—positive impressions.
Before you act . . .
Nobody’s perfect, and it’s tough to be on your A-game 24/7. But by consistently holding yourself to a higher standard, you’re less likely to have to draw on that get-out-of-jail-free card when you do mess up.