Being a part of a company sometimes feels as though you are back in high-school; the cliques, the perceptions, the gossip, and not really knowing where you stand within an organization. And worst of all, you have no idea what you did to ruin your work reputation, or at least tarnish it a bit. I have seen this countless times throughout my career and unfortunately have made some (ok, several), of these not-so-obvious mistakes that haunted me for many years within different organizations.
Work hard, deliver results – a mantra that many people think will bring success within the work environment, but as well as find out about five days out of college, there is so much more to being a “good” employee. Your reputation is your calling card and ruining it without meaning to, a bad reputation will hold your career back for years to come.
The 6 Not-So-Obvious Mistakes that Have Ruined Your Work Reputation
1. You over-negotiated during the offer process.
It is easy to forget that negotiations that you have before ever stepping foot into the office, will absolutely influence your reputation – and it is usually not for the better. When you are fighting for a fair salary, title, or other offer-related items, things can get heated and feelings can get hurt. If you were over-aggressive or came across as greedy to the person on the other end of the negotiations, believe me – you will never live that down. The negotiating party (recruiter, hiring manager, etc.) most definitely did NOT keep that information to themselves, so be ready to overcome some negative feelings out of the gate.
2. You try to “fix” everything.
I have been guilty of this more times than I care to admit. To me, it makes sense that you want to improve an organization as best as you know how, but to the people who are doing things “inefficiently,” there is no quicker way to offend. Having solutions is paramount to success at work, but learning how to deliver your improvements is critical. In other words, just because you know how to solve something, it is more important to figure out how to frame your solution. Sometimes it means presenting the solution as a softer option, bring about the idea in a brainstorming session, or even letting someone else take credit for the idea. If your goal is improvement, than how you get there is irrelevant in the larger scheme of your reputation.
3. You talk too much during meetings.
I cannot even think of a situation where over-talking can help your cause, so stop talking every chance you get. In meetings, there is (hopefully) a problem that is trying to be solved or information to be shared. Meetings are meant to be collaborative, and if you are the one always talking, you have removed the “freedom” of free-flowing ideas from the others at the table. Meetings are not meant to be pissing contests, so sit back and let others have the floor and be a part of the process. Your brilliant idea can always be shared later.
4. You’re friends with the boss.
Being close with the boss (or your boss’ boss), is a mixed bag. It will most likely help your career, but it will also put you in the hot spot with your coworkers. This reputation killer is a personal choice – you need to decide what is more important to you. This is the same general “brown-noser” complaint people start chanting in elementary school, just on a higher level. If you are learning from the higher-ups, if they respect you, that is what really matters – but just expect a chilly reception from your colleagues.
5. Taking on more than others.
This one bugs me to no end, but it is a sure-fire way to take a reputation blow. Being more efficient, having a greater capacity, delivering more… is a point of contention for your coworkers. I think this one stems from a little bit of jealousy and perhaps, challenging the mediocre norm. When you show that more can be done, it raises the bar for everyone else… and your colleagues may have enjoyed where the bar was previously. It comes across as a challenge, even though your intent was most likely to deliver to the best of your ability.
6. Not joining in the “team” dynamics.
It is hard to explain this mistake, but essentially, it is not adjusting to the way your team works and interacts. If they are a group of gossipers, by not joining in (or at a minimum, not laughing/engaging as appropriate), you send a signal that you don’t have time for that – the appearance or perception of being “above” or better than them. If your team likes to have lunch together every day, choosing not to join them will come across the same way. Luckily for this situation, there is definitely a middle ground that you can take. You need to be sure to participate enough that they feel you are not looking down on them, but also keep your integrity. In the gossiping situation, perhaps chuckle a time or two or add an innocent piece of info every now and then; for the lunch scenario, join them once a week and let them know you are swamped or have errands to run the other days.
This is just the start of the list! There are so many other ways that you can be sabotaging your own reputation, without ever knowing it. The most important thing, is that you continue to deliver, work hard and treat everyone you interact with respect. Eventually, even these missteps can be overcome.