9 Little-Known Ways to Damage Your Reputation at Work


Everyone knows the accidental “reply all” can be devastating, but there’splenty of harm in the intentional “reply all.” An E-mail reply that’s terse, caustic, or cryptic might make sense to a single recipient (who knows the writer well) but it rarely translates to a broad audience. A regular habit can leave coworkers with a negative impression that’s “almost irreversible,” says Sandy Allgeier, author of The Personal Credibility Factor: How to Get It, Keep It, and Get It Back (If You’ve Lost It).


You’re a new hire, eager to look good among more experienced colleagues, so you’re quick to raise your hand when there’s an opportunity. When someone is ambitious and wants to be seen as a contributor, they can have a quick response that is not helpful, says Sandy Allgeier, author ofThe Personal Credibility Factor: How to Get It, Keep It, and Get It Back (If You’ve Lost It). “You should really be feeling free to ask more questions,” she adds. “This is especially true of people who are trying to make their mark.”




You’re hard at work on a project and rather than check in with your bossalong the way, you’re keeping out of his or her hair until the project is done. But unless you know this to be your manager’s preference, you risk serious under-communication. If the project isn’t done correctly and has to be reworked, that’s plenty of time and energy wasted, which won’t look good. Your boss may begin to question your judgment in other areas, too.




Very often, reputations are made or lost on the small stuff, or the “-ilities,” according to Emily Bennington, co-author of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job. Think humility, reliability, likability. “What I’ve seen a lot with people entering theworkforce, it’s not so much that they make these major mistakes,” Bennington says. “They slowly chip away at it.”


Equally as troublesome as having a bad reputation is not having one. Some professionals are generic. “They don’t stand for anything in the workforce,” Emily Bennington, co-author of Effective Immediately, says. “It’s not so much that they’ve damaged their reputation, it’s that they don’t have one at all.” Roy Cohen, an executive coach in New York, says that workers can under-socialize. “There’s a sense that if I work really hard, the work will speak for itself,” Cohen says. Much of the time, it won’t.


While there’s nothing wrong with ambition, workers can put themselves in a bad position when they overestimate their own abilities and bite off more than they can chew. This is a greater danger today, as the recession has left many workers anxious to impress and keep their jobs, says Roy Cohen, an executive coach in New York. Layoffs and hiring freezes have increased employee’s workloads, but taking on more than you can handle will make you look like you can’t deliver.


So much career advice is centered around an employee’s relationship with his or her manager that many workers neglect their relationships with coworkers. “I’ve noticed that new professionals coming into the workforce don’t appreciate that their success is as dependent upon colleagues as it is upon their boss,” says Emily Bennington, co-author of Effective Immediately. If you land in a management role, you may be perceived as a lone ranger.


It’s easy to embarrass your boss in a meeting with other managers. “Make sure you understand the rules of behavior,” says Roy Cohen, an executive coach in New York. “That’s critical.” For one thing, don’t interrupt your boss. It’s crucial to have your boss’s back when you’re in public. Your loyalty should come across as thoughtful, not blind.


If your job calls for you to produce regular data charts or reports that you send to colleagues, but you don’t make that data understandable to the recipients, most of your reports are likely going in the trash. That means your work will be quickly labeled irrelevant. If management ever needs to slash payrolls, you’re making it easy for the decision makers to cut your position.


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