Mindful Leadership

Seven Ways to Royally Screw Up Your Reputation

Last week, I wrote about three ways to earn respect under the corporate umbrella. This time I thought it would be fun to highlight a few ways to unwind respect at work. Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear from you.

1.) Stupid excuses. “But no one told me….But I never received any guidance…But no one got back to me.” Ugh…. work victims suck. If you don’t have answers, ask questions. Ask for clarifications up front, feedback along the way, and be open to any and all critiques without getting your panties in a bind. Maybe even turn in a rough version of whatever you’re working on to your supervisor while it’s in progress to see if you’re on the right track. Then check in with questions like, “How am I doing? Does this meet your expectations? Is there anything I can improve upon?” You don’t want to bird dog your boss or clients to the point of annoyance, but you do want to get answers on the front end so you don’t have to make lame excuses like “but I didn’t know how” on the back end.

2.) Missing deadlines. If you want to earn respect, be the person who doesn’t need an email reminder to get your work done. That means if the deadline is on the 24th,  you deliver by 5pm on the 24th not before midnight on the 25th.

3.) Poor meeting prep. Can we all quit sending review docs and slide decks 60 seconds before the meeting starts? Thanks.

4.) Being tit-for-tat on time and money. Recently I had a manager tell me of an employee who had a 5pm flight to a regional sales meeting. Since the flight was two hours long, she figured her “work” day would end around 7pm. Therefore, she felt completely justified in her request to show up that morning at 10:30am – not because she had something important to handle, mind you –  but because she considered anything past 5pm “overtime”  and, even though she was salaried,  she thought the company “owed” her those two hours. Now…this is a person who worked in a showroom where anyone’s absence meant the rest of the team had to work harder to pick up the slack. So here’s how the story ends: Not only did her manager flatly deny her request to come in late but – in that instant – any leadership equity she had built with him was damaged.  (Note: If you can’t see a thing wrong with the employee’s request, you’re probably reading the wrong blog.) To be clear, I’m not telling you that regular 60+ hour work weeks with no added compensation from the company (a promotion, raise, extra vacation hours, or even all three) is acceptable. It’s not. You have a life. But I am saying that – as with everything else – you have to give to get. If you want to advance in your career, you have to see beyond what’s most convenient for you at any given time and consider what’s best for your team and the company overall. This also goes for turning in an expense report every single time you pay a toll or buy a stamp. Yes, that $1.65 IS owed to you but it’s another one of those “little” things that scream I’m-only-here-because-you-pay-me. If you have a worthy report – by all means – file to be reimbursed. But if you just spotted the client a coffee last month and that’s all – let it go.

5.) Unresponsiveness. Let me just clear something up right now: Ignored email does NOT mean no. It only means the sender has to wonder if their email is in your junk folder, if you haven’t made a decision yet, or if you’re just avoiding them. Either way, it’s rude. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to messages where you’re cc’d or that don’t require a direct response but – if someone has taken the time to reach out to you personally – for Pete’s sake respect them enough to respond – even if your answer isn’t what they want to hear.

6.) Being the center of your own jokes. Self-depreciating humor is exactly that. Self-depreciating. It makes you small. When you tell a joke at your own expense – about your weight, your abilities, your “blonde moments”, whatever – you may think it’s harmless or that you’re just having fun. Nope. What you’re really doing is affirming that negative perception in your own mind and in the mind of others. That’s because every thought you think and word you say has energy attached to it. High-level thoughts and words have high-level energy while – you guessed it – low-level thoughts and words have low energy. Each will become like a magnet in your life so – in order for others to respect you – you have to respect yourself first. Note: If that’s too ‘woo-woo’, just remember my friend “Amy.” (And, no, that’s not her real name.) Early in her career while trying to be “one of the girls” Amy made a joke about meeting up with her boyfriend for a red-hot lunch special (<——— yeah, it’s what you think it is).  That tryst earned her the nickname “nooner” which, unfortunately, spread like wildfire through the office gossip channels. Poor, Amy. What started as a tiny joke ended up putting a sizable dent in her reputation at work. But before you accuse me of being the mean headmistress, I should point out that – yes- I’m very aware that a robust sense of humor is required to survive in business. (Perhaps now more than ever.) That said, it’s one thing to know how to take or tell a joke,  and something entirely different to “make” yourself a joke. When you turn yourself into a punching bag, you are subtly giving others permission to do the same.

7.) Missing the small stuff. Think details don’t matter? Tell that to the 2012 graduates of the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Pubic Affairs. Whoever let that appear on the commencement booklet – true story – has certainly learned the, um, hard way that “little” things are actually quite big.