Guarding Your Reputation

Jan 16th, 2011 | By | Category: abundance, Career advice, challenges, mentor, strategy, tactics

With limited space, theaters use marquees to advertise what is showing. Often there are pictures or scenes from the production and short text messages to give an idea of what the show is about. The content on the marquee is chosen carefully to entice expectations and boost ticket sales. Your reputation is your marquee and advertises what people can expect from you. Like the marquee your reputation contains limited information which is chosen, usually by others, to set expectations, and professional standing. Your reputation is as important as any entry on your CV or resume.

Reputations are actions filtered through the observations, perceptions, and biases of others. The amount and type of information that is released about you is the grist of the gossip and rumor mills that manufactures reputations. Hollywood is a master of manufacturing reputations for movie stars to increase their popularity and image. Unfortunately, there is a double standard between celebrities and professionals. W.C. Fields, Dean Martin and others incorporated the appearance of being heavy drinkers into their reputations with positive results. However, it would be very damaging for a surgeon, politician, or any other profession to be labeled as an alcoholic?

Paraphrasing Shakespeare – nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
What and how people think of you is what makes up your reputation. How many times have you developed a perception of someone based on what someone else tells you about them? Fair or not, this how most of us form their opinions of others, many times without ever meeting them? Every time someone asks you what you think of a person, you are adding to their reputation. The same is true of your reputation. One detractor can undo years of positive accomplishments. If you are in a competitive situation, which we all are, competitors will often fabricate or distort the truth to gain an advantage. Just look at the negative campaign tactics in politics. So it is important to guard your reputation.

No one is perfect, and we all have said and done things wished we hadn’t, but there is no going back. On the other hand, many of us are attributed with things we didn’t do. So how do you manage your reputation?

The first thing is to decide what type of a reputation you want to project.
You should choose something compatible with your personality. In most instances just being yourself is fine.

Don’t be your own worse enemy and tell embarrassing or degrading things about yourself. Don’t believe that “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Sometimes I think the main reason some people go to meetings and events is to tell what everyone else said and did. Now they even have pictures to show. Your friends are not doing you a favor when they post pictures of you drinking, etc on facebook, etc.

Try to treat everyone with respect. If you badmouth someone, they usually return the favor with dividends. Even my friend who said he never originated a bad word against anyone, could not wait to repeat negative things someone else said. Although this tactic gave him a great defense when confronted, his own reputation suffered. The more people you can have thinking favorably of you the better. If you always have something nice to say about someone, the odds of your getting into trouble are less.

Learn how to defend yourself when someone attacks you or your reputation. The common responses of outrage and silence are both bad moves. The best defense is to deflect it with humor if possible. For example, while waiting for a meeting to start, someone started to innocently attack another member, by saying something to the effect, “I didn’t expect to see you here today considering the condition you were in at the bar last night.” (True or not a rather vicious thing to say at a professional meeting.) I would have probably turned red and sat in silence, adding to my guilt. Instead back came the reply, “I know you were seeing double so things looked twice as bad as they were to you.” Everyone laughed, and the red face was on the other side of the table. If not humor, then something that exonerates or casts a positive light on the situation. Perhaps something like “We did stay kind of late, but I did not want to desert my friends.” No matter how embarrassing, do not surrender to the degradation. If you have no excuse, just smile and say thanks for bringing it to my attention. At least that will high light the persons negative intentions.

If you put effort into building and maintaining your reputation you will not have to worry about what prospective employers and clients have heard about you, or what they can find on the Internet.

Good luck
The PracticaL Mentor.

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