Do you take your professional reputation for granted? Do you assume that others share the image you have of yourself? You might see yourself as the “joker,” or the “by the numbers” person, the “peacemaker,” the “ideas person,” the “kid” or the “father figure.” But others may see you very differently. And its the perceptions of others that can create or destroy your professional reputation. Consider these seven easy ways you can tarnish your reputation and career.
How to Destroy Your Professional Reputation:
- Be arrogant. Do you believe that you are an exception? If so, you might be perceived as arrogant. You may feel you are special and embrace arrogance. But be aware that arrogance has a cost. Positioning yourself as a superior being alienates you from others. Being exceptionally excellent enhances your reputation, but being arrogant corrupts it.
- Patronize and demean. Do you see yourself as helpful to others? Advising and supporting others can advance your professional reputation. But being condescending and patronizing can paint you as being needy and in decline, trying to tear down those you see as a threat. Phrases such as, “You’re so naive,” “I thought you were smarter than that,” or “I’m embarrassed for you,” signal a need to rip others down in the guise of building them up.
- Pass the buck. Do you feel you are the target for criticism, wrongly blamed for actions and outcomes? Do you find yourself saying, “She did it, not me,” or “Why aren’t you criticizing them? They can get away with it, but I can’t?” Look deep. Two wrongs don’t make a right. And are you always truly and totally without fault? Most likely not. Accept your share of responsibility and act to make things right. Attempts to shift blame or redirect attention diminish your reputation.
- Lie. Are you a deal-maker and a pro at gamesmanship? These can be commendable professional skills. Beware, though, that “spin” doesn’t veer into misleading innuendo and outright lies. Be clear what is true, and what is not, and do not cross the line. A liar has a professional reputation – and will never again be fully trusted.
- Be a slacker. Do you let others dive into a project, and step in if needed? You may feel you are being helpful; others may see you as a slacker. Step in early and do your share, and more. Being labeled a slacker is a black mark on your reputation.
- Be sarcastic. Do you see yourself as witty, edgy and clever? Irony and light sarcasm can evoke a laugh and highlight universal truths. But sarcasm can also cut deep and slash at your professional reputation. Whether intentionally or not, the wrong words can do permanent damage. Avoid malicious sarcasm and preserve your professional reputation.
- Be antagonistic. Do you find it amusing to “pull someone’s chain” and say something outrageous, just to get them angry and incensed? Do you like to bait people into arguments in the guise of honest discourse? Do you see yourself as a “Hey, I call ’em like I see ’em” straight shooter, and if someone has a problem, “Well, that’s their problem, not mine.” You may see this as a joke, but others may see it as a valid reason to avoid you professionally. Antagonistic behavior is manipulative, and being manipulative can destroy your professional reputation.
Just because others don’t call you out for unprofessional behavior doesn’t mean they don’t notice. They do. And just because you are unaware of the damage to your professional reputation doesn’t mean there is no impact. There is.
It’s easy to be thoughtless, and rationalize your behavior as “That’s just the way I am.” You can remain stuck in a self-destructive mode; it’s your choice. Take a serious look. Even an occasional lapse can have ongoing repercussions. You will never know the impact of a single rude comment. Your name comes up in a conversation, and is met with an awkward silence that speaks volumes. And that unspoken awkwardness is repeated, again and again, passed from person to person. Be aware, respect yourself, and respect and protect your professional reputation.