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How to improve your reputation at work

Not sure how you are perceived by others? Here's how to ensure your name is known for the right reasons.

How to improve your reputation at work

Not sure how you are perceived by others, or struggling to shake off a negative reputation? How you are seen at work, particularly by senior management, can have a huge influence on your career success. Here's how to ensure your name is known for the right reasons.

What do people think of you?

'Your reputation is what other people say about you, rather than just what you say about yourself,' says Corinne Mills of Personal Career Management and author of Career Coach.

While you might think you know how you are seen, the truth can be very different. So how can you find out what kind of reputation you have?

'Think about what people may say about you after you've left a meeting or a conversation,' says Sarah Archer, career coach and co-founder of CareerTree. 'Would they say you always come up with ideas, that you're helpful, or that you really know your area of expertise?'

To find out for sure, you need honest feedback. In your next review, try asking colleagues, clients and managers for three words that come to mind when they think of you.

'Be aware that most people won't feel comfortable telling you about your less positive attributes, even if you've asked for their honest opinion,' says Corinne.

'For this reason, it can help to speak to a trusted mentor in the company - preferably someone who will be honest with you and can help you to understand why you gained that reputation in the first place, and what you might be doing to perpetuate it.'

Improve your visibility

Sometimes, you can be great at your job but your reputation doesn't match your success. In this instance, you need to spend time improving your visibility.

Corinne's advice is to celebrate your successes. 'When things have gone right, write an email to everyone in the department or post on the intranet. For instance, tell everyone how much better the new payroll scheme is that you have helped to introduce, rather than just hoping they might notice.'

Many companies have employee recognition schemes, so make sure your name is put forward. Corinne says: 'Sometimes you need to prompt your manager to nominate you. Not because they don't think you are worthy, but because they are distracted by other things. Respectfully remind them of what you've achieved that could make you eligible.'

How to shed a negative reputation

Reputations, whether justifiable or not, have a habit of sticking and can be hard to change. It may be one mistake you made, or a culmination of shared opinions over a period of time.

If you have a negative reputation, it's essential to change your behaviour before you try to introduce a more positive set of values.

For example, if you're known as the negative voice of the department, make an effort to change your language and couch things differently.

'You may feel that you're a "realist" but if others are picking up on your negativity, you need to re-frame how you come across,' says Corinne. 'Instead of being the one who rubbishes an idea, put forward an alternative suggestion that might work instead.'

Take control of your reputation

Once you've changed any negative behaviours, you can work on being known for more positive ones.

'Your reputation is your brand so you really need to spend time considering what you want to be known for, what is unique and true about you, and then make it a reality by letting everyone know about it,' says Sarah.

'For example, if you want to be known as an expert in your subject, make sure you observe what individual colleagues or clients need and send them useful links or articles, offer them timely and relevant information, and post informative blogs on the company website. Read everything on that topic and participate in LinkedIn discussion groups.'

In addition, Corinne suggests becoming 'actively involved in your professional institute or sector forums, attending events, and perhaps sitting on the committee, so that you can bring external knowledge and expertise back into your organisation.'

Whatever you want to be known for, remember that reputations have to be built and that takes hard work, particularly at the beginning.

And if you do all that, and still can't shake off a bad reputation?

'If you feel that no matter what you do, you are still perceived negatively then it may be time to change employer and start afresh and develop your new reputation,' says Sarah.