Whether you went off the deep end one day after a little too much liquid at lunch, lost your temper and kicked the trash can across the office, never meet a deadline, are late to work every single day, or you are known for starting rumors faster than the laser printer kicks out pages, you may have a reputation at work.
And it’s not likely the type of reputation you want to have.
Your professional reputation is something that can not only impact you at your current job, but can follow you to your next place of employment. When the damage has been done, figuring out how to repair your image can be tough.
Fortunately, there are some very specific things you can do that will help change your reputation and put you on the path to success.
Own Up to Your Mistake
Keith Wyche, author of Corner Office Rules, said, “We’re a country of second chances, but we are not very fond of third ones.”
People tend to be pretty forgiving. If you admit that you’ve made a mistake, most people will forgive you.
However, it is also good to take it a step further. Explain how you plan to rectify the mistake and how you’ll avoid making the same mistake in future. Be sure to follow through!
Confront False Rumors
Sometimes innocent actions can be construed in the wrong way. A few office rumors start flying and before you know it, you’re are the target of some false ones.
When your reputation suffers for something you didn’t even do, it can be quite frustrating. Another issue is when you are perceived in the wrong way because your actions are misunderstood.
The best thing you can do in this situation is to be upfront with those who have the wrong idea about you. Explain yourself, your motivations, or how — specifically — the information they’ve received is false. At a minimum, those involved will know you are an upfront person and that you care about other people’s opinions.
Stay Calm and Unemotional
If you kicked a trash can across the room, or any one of a million other things that might go wrong at work, you will likely be called into upper management’s office for a discussion and warning about your behavior.
Or, perhaps you’re known as the tattle tale of the office, and you need to speak to the boss about the person who did kick the trash can across the room.
When you are involved in a confrontation at work, you’ll want to go in with only the facts. Leave emotions out of it and don’t highlight everything you think is wrong with your co-workers. Keep things impersonal, matter of fact and unemotional.
Ignore the Clucking
If you’ve made a few bad decisions, the gossip mill at work is likely already running full speed against you. It can be difficult to swim against the current of a negative reputation.
Try to ignore anything negative that is said to you. Find a friend outside of work who you can trust and can confide in. It is best not to confide in anyone at work, because you never know when someone is pretending to be a friend but telling others what you are saying.
Change whatever behavior has been bad in the past and give it some time. It can take a long while before your co-workers begin to trust you again. In the future, be very careful not to give them any fuel for negative gossip.
If you’ve developed a reputation of not following through, some simple organization tips can help change that bad image.
Buy a planner and write everything down. Find one that lets you prioritize tasks from most important to least important, such as a Franklin planner. Buy chalkboard vinyl stickers to keep track of your to-dos, goals and schedules. Get a filing cabinet or a new system for organizing documents.
Be consistent in getting things done and keeping your promises. As you prove that you are reliable, you’ll be given more responsibility.
Go Above and Beyond
One way to repair a professional reputation is to put your best foot forward and be extremely helpful. Help your co-worker edit his report without expecting anything in return. Get to work early. Leave late. Do more than is asked of you. Never complain.
If you can do these things consistently, you’ll go a long way toward repairing your work reputation. At a minimum, you’ll redeem yourself with management and get a decent recommendation for your next job. You’ll also develop better habits that will keep you from making the same mistakes next time.