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.


  • Sarah Jill says:

    I stumbled across your blog today and really like some of your points. I have been in the workforce for a little over 2 years however I am still learning the do’s and don’ts. I had a few question on bullet #4. Is there a dollar amount to what is an acceptable cause of reimbursement? For example: my boss asks me to go to the bank every day to make check runs (we don’t have a company car) and my boss has never mentioned about reimbursement for gas/miles. Granted the bank is only 4 miles in distance total but after doing this faithfully a year now I was thinking I might have to do this indefinitely and it surely adds up…. Is this something that is tit for tat to bring up to my boss, what is considered a “worthy report” and what are other items that an employee shouldn’t bother getting reimbursement?
    In addition, I have a very similar story to the lady you mentioned coming in 2 hours late because of her plane getting in 2 hours after her normal work day. I wanted to get your thoughts on my similar scenario. I live in SanFran and I have been going to these mandatory training conferences at our headquarters in PA, my boss requires me to work a whole day which he purposely schedules my flights late evenings after the work day and I usually arrive to PA at midnight which I always end up exhausted and not really functional on the first day of the conference; the conference usually ends in the late afternoon and I usually get back to SF at midnight as well and I am expected to be on time to work the following morning. I have to attend these conferences quite frequently, is it unreasonable to ask my boss to come in late, or at the vary least ask to work from home on the day of my departures or day after arrivals? Is flight time (very long in my case) ever considered as hours to be compensated in the form of PTO etc? I am all about being a team player, and showing that I have a diehard work ethic but I definitely feel used at times and I think my boss can be unreasonable and not thoughtful of my personal time and resources. I am not sure if I should say anything to my boss as I don’t want to come off as a complainer but stand up for myself at the same time or is this tit for tat stuff?

    Thank you for the blog it was a good read! I liked your self depreciating bullet point, it was quite intriguing and funny at the same time.

    Thanks, SJ

  • emily says:

    Sarah –

    Thanks for reading. I think your job should feel like any relationship in your life, i.e. sometimes you give more and sometimes they give more but – in the end – it’s a wash. No party should feel taken advantage of. So…if your gut is telling you that this organization (or this boss) is routinely overstepping the lines, he probably is. Time to bring it up. On the bank thing….4 miles a day x 20 working days in a month = 80 x .55/mile = $44/month x 12/months = $528. That’s a lot of money. Also, on the travel… why is your boss scheduling your flights? If I were you, I’d offer to take this over and book something more convenient that gives you some time to rest / relax before your meeting and when you return from work. You need that or you will certainly burnout. Also – as an aside – if this is a regular pattern of “pressure” from your boss to “suck it up” you’re probably mismatched with your employer. Good bosses don’t take advantage of their staff.


  • emily says:

    Oh, and to your question about the flights…I’d check with your HR dept but normally that time is not considered PTO for salaried workers.

  • Sarah Jill says:

    Thank you for your suggestions. The previous person before me that used to do the bank runs had actually asked for some form of compensation back for his gas/mileage on his car…. and my boss basically denied the request and didn’t ask that person to do bank runs anymore and in turn kindly asked me start doing the bank runs, of course I was the new girl and lowest person on the totem pole at the time and wouldn’t say no to such a request. The person that used to do the bank runs was the first to be let go once we had budget cuts….I am sure he wasn’t cut solely on his refusal to do bank runs but I’m sure after voicing his opinion that my boss didn’t see him in the best light anymore. That’s why I feel it’s difficult to say anything at this time and I was trying to figure out the difference from being a complainer on such matters versus standing up for myself. To respond to your question regarding why my boss scheduling our flights… the associates use to schedule our own flights and pick the most convenient times (which weren’t always the cheapest flights, but nothing unreasonably more). My boss took notice and made a comment that we needed to fly out after the work day was over or at least early evening so that we aren’t short staffed the whole day, after he made that comment he started scheduling the flights for us. Everyone in my department (AR) is salary so I understand I just need to “suck it up” even though I feel that is rather unreasonable. However, my roommate who works for the same company but in the OS department she is hourly and we vent to each other about work sometimes…She was telling me she is the same boat as me, working full day then flying out to PA late evening for conferences. She was complaining to me that she feels she should be compensated for her overly long flight time being that she is an hourly associate…. I told her not to say anything to her boss as that may create friction for her. That is the reason why I had asked you if flight time could be a cause to ask for extra PTO. I don’t feel comfortable talking to HR it seems like negative words always gets back to the bosses so I try to stay away from them…. I know this company perhaps is a mismatch for me however; I am not in the position to be jobless in this economy right now. Thanks for reading my long winded story and all your suggestions.


  • emily says:

    Girrrrl….you are in a toxic environment. I suggest you start looking for a new job ASAP. Seriously.

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