Job Advice: How to Fix a Bad Reputation at Work

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A good work reputation is everything. Without a positive reputation, career advancement can be tough, especially if you work in an industry where everyone seems to know each other. If you make a big mistake, say the wrong thing, or send a poorly worded email, your reputation could be on the line.

What’s most frustrating is your lack of control over the situation, notes Dr. Alex Lickerman in his Psychology Today column: “Your reputation lives a very real existence apart from you, representing the collective mental construct everyone but you shares about you. It is a construct based partially on your own actions but also on the perceptions others have about others’ perceptions of your actions.”

However, the good news is that there are some steps you can take to make your tarnished reputation just like new again. Here’s how to fix a bad work reputation.

Why your reputation matters

Your co-workers and supervisors will decide whether they can trust you based on your reputation as well as your prior performance. If there are any dents in your armor, you’ll have to work hard to prove yourself. Depending on the situation, you may not get a chance to prove yourself at all. For example, if you’re up for a promotion, a spiteful colleague or boss might tell the hiring manager something that puts you in a negative light. In this instance, one person bringing up a past mistake could hurt your chances of getting a better position. When your reputation is lacking, so are your opportunities. Missed opportunities can also mean missed money. It is for this very reason that it is so important to guard your reputation fiercely.

Millennials are most concerned about their work reputation, according to a survey by Weber Shandwick and the Institute for Public Relations. Roughly 47% of millennials said they think about their work reputation all or most of the time compared to 37% of Gen Xers and 26% of baby boomers. The study found that although millennials have grown up surrounded by technology, they place a higher value on their face-to-face interactions at work than their co-workers.

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