WHEN was the last time you avoided asking a coworker for help that you needed simply because of his bad attitude? Maybe you haven’t even worked with the person before—but you’ve heard of him. You can most likely rattle off a few names of people you would rather work around than with. You can probably also think of someone you seek out regularly because of her positive approach.
A reputation can be made in an instant and take much longer to repair. Something as simple as a misguided email exchange can ignite a reaction, followed by a judgment call, and there you have it: a reputation is born! Right or wrong (and we’ve all heard this before), perception is reality. A person’s reputation can make or break her career.
The totality of performance is not only what you achieved, but also how you achieved it. How you move through your workday–how you respond to, interact, and collaborate with people and projects–will likely be evaluated formally in your annual performance review. Individuals who feel that it’s all about the results and show little value for the people part will begin to take this more seriously when there is an official record of their behavior. If that doesn’t work, maybe receiving a smaller merit increase will.
Think for a moment about yourself. What would a group of coworkers sitting around the lunch table say about you, should your name come up? Does it match what you would want them to say? If you don’t know, you should find out. And how does one find out? The answer is simple: feedback.
Feedback is a gift. And similar to gift giving, you may not always like what you receive. If your reputation needs work, ignoring it is not going to help you, nor will it make the perceptions about you less real. That said, people are not always willing to volunteer feedback. And even if you do ask someone to help you out directly, you may get a response lost in a coat of sugar, or, even worse, you are told that no issues exist.
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. We don’t live in a perfect world. That’s why asking for and providing feedback is essential. If people are truly uncomfortable with providing feedback face to face, a 360-degree feedback assessment is a great tool. This process involves select individuals and groups of people who have high visibility and insight into a person who is seeking feedback. All responses (other than those from the managers) are anonymous. The person seeking feedback also has an opportunity to rate themselves and see how aligned they are, or not, with other assessments.
Be ready for the feedback and keep an open mind. If someone says something that you weren’t expecting, or something that you believe is untrue, don’t react too strongly or get defensive. Remember, people who take the time to give you honest feedback are trying to help you. Seek to understand their observations and ask for examples. Make sure to thank them for their time. Then, take some time to digest everything and decide what you want to do with the feedback provided, if anything. Hopefully, the feedback is valuable and makes sense to you.
It all boils down to an awareness of how you come across to others. To keep the pulse on your reputation, make sure to sustain positive interaction and collaboration. Model the behavior you want your team and others to follow. We’re all human, and we will undoubtedly have an off day here and there. When it happens, circle back, course-correct, and learn from it. Your reputation is worth it.
Preparing for anything that could compromise your professional reputation will ensure continued career success. Take the initiative and improve your communication skills with these AMA resources and seminars.