Reputation - Looking After Your Most Important Asset at Work
“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it” – Benjamin Franklin

Your reputation speaks to a whole range of things about you and ultimately it defines you and your relationships with others.

Whether it’s your friends, your neighbours, your schoolmates or your teacher, they will all have a view on what kind of person you are, and that will define your relationship with them. So whether you know it or not, during your time at school you have developed a good or a bad reputation.

A good reputation is a mix of attitude, motivation, ethics, optimism, and a whole bunch of other stuff that tells the world – “Hey, this is me, and this is how I behave”.

But you are a new starter in a work situation. Nobody knows you at work, so how does this reputation thing work for you?

Most of your co-workers will have little or no knowledge of you, apart from what the boss may have told them about the impression you made at interview.

Some co-workers will already have a pre-conceived (not personal) view on new starters based on their experience with school leavers or university graduates.

For example, your future co-worker may consider all new graduates as useless know-it-alls and just another lazy sod that thinks the world owes them a living. Maybe you’ll get lucky and your future co- worker will think that a new junior is just what they need, someone with energy and enthusiasm who is going to be just so helpful around the office!

Generally, most co-workers, even those with preconceived ideas, are willing to give new starters the benefit of the doubt and judge you on how they find you.

In a work situation your reputation is everything. It tells people who have never met you what sort of person you are, whether you have the “right attitude”, whether you can be trusted to do a job, whether you are a quick learner, motivated, a lazy person, a gossip, reliable, enthusiastic, angry, optimistic, sullen, cheery, funny, achiever, team player, loner, studies, hands on: all these things go to make your reputation.

This is important, because when you start work, you will be judged, and as you probably don’t have a network of relationships or contacts, the word about you (positive and negative) can be circulating without your knowledge.

This is different to a school or university setting, where you can still achieve high grades if you have some weaknesses in your reputation. Your high school grades say nothing about
your reputation.

For example if you have a reputation for being lazy and leaving things to the last minute. You might swot up in the last few weeks using your schoolmates’ notes – notes that you were too lazy to take yourself

However, as a person with that type of attitude in a work situation you won’t succeed by putting the effort on only now and then when it suits you. You will find that your boss and co-workers will be CONTINUALLY assessing you and if you are seen as a lazy person you will soon be out on your ear. Worse still, you now have a reputation as a lazy sod, and that will follow you to your next job.

As your reputation is building in your new job, you need to be careful to protect it.

People will talk, and you will not get the right of reply. If your boss mentions to another boss that you are a bit lazy, and only apply yourself when you feel like it, you may find yourself being overlooked for promotion or pay rises, without knowing it.

Protecting your reputation is a full -time job.

Say you have worked up a reputation of being a good guy to work with, calm, helpful, polite etc. Then one day you are feeling a bit down and have a full scale row with one of your co-workers over a trivial matter. The whole office witnesses this row, and everybody will remember the day you really lost it.

Your reputation that you have built up over months or years has suddenly gone out the window and you are seen as a cranky worker and “difficult”. You may never recover your previous good reputation. Workers will be watching and waiting on you losing your cool again.

Similarly if you have a reputation of being the exceptional worker who goes the extra mile, then the word will get around. Let’s say you are a waitress and you make a point of adding a smile and a small biscuit to every coffee order and making the customer feel special in some way. Perhaps you are a carpenter who makes a special effort to clean his workplace and tools thoroughly at the end of every shift.

These things will improve your reputation. They will show people that you are a good worker, and increase your worth to the boss. But remember, you can’t have an “off day” and lower your standards. That would undermine your reputation.