8 Reputations You Really Want to Avoid at Work (and Everywhere Else, Too)
As hard as it may be to practice what I preach, I’m a firm believer that we shouldn’t care what others think about us. After all, it’s not great for our self-esteem to constantly be worried about how people will perceive us.
But, while I will stand behind this in most situations, the fact of the matter is there is at least one instance in which what others think about you is extremely important—work.
As Selena Rezvani—speaker, leadership consultant, and author of The New Generation of Women Leaders: What You Need to Lead but Won’t Learn in Business School and Pushback: How Smart Women Ask—and Stand Up—for What They Want—says, “The most important career capital you have isn’t your technical skills or academic pedigree. It’s not your high-flying title. It’s not even your relationships… It’s your reputation.”
So, in an effort to make you more likable at work, here are eight reputations you’ll really want to avoid earning.
1. The Late Arriver
It’s really annoying if you’re perpetually late to meetings, even if it’s only by a few minutes. You’re not the only one who’s busy, and consistently showing up tardy to the party is really disrespectful.
So, plan accordingly and get there on time. Most likely, part of this planning includes determining why you’re always running late. Perhaps you need to set your alarm for a different time or make your coffee at home instead of waiting in line at Starbucks. Whatever it is, figure it out and make the appropriate changes in order to be on time (or, better yet, early).
2. The Snitch
I was a fairly superior tattletale in my preschool days. And my teacher never failed to say, “Did this person hurt you? Did this person hurt someone else?” And if the answer to both was no, she would say “Then why are you telling me this?” Because I want to get this person in trouble, gosh darn it! (Preschool was pretty cutthroat in the early ’90s.)
Basically, unless what someone else is doing is detrimentally affecting you or your team, you don’t need to tell your manager. It’s really none of your business. So, before you start blabbing, answer the following: “Why am I telling this person this?”
If the only reason you can think of is “just because” or, worse, solely to make your colleague look bad, keep your mouth shut. It’s not your place and, ultimately, it reflects badly on you.
3. The Drunk
So, you go out for an innocent happy hour drink with some colleagues and all of a sudden you’re three sheets to the wind. (Hey, when drinks are $3 off from 3 PM to 5 PM, it’s natural to want to take advantage of that—I get it). But, that one drink too many causes you to badmouth your co-workers, stumble all over the place, share way too many personal details (you did what at your New Year’s party? Gross), and so forth. Just like that, no one at the office takes you seriously anymore. And the happy hour invites stop coming in, too.
Here’s the thing: You can go get a beer with your team and not end up embarrassing yourself. These two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Limit yourself to one or two drinks, and in addition, double fist it. Nope, not with two alcoholic beverages—beer in one hand, water in the other.
Furthermore, you don’t have to drink. It’s perfectly acceptable to just grab some H20 or other booze-free drink instead. Remember: Office happy hours aren’t really about the drinks—they’re much more about getting to know each other.
4. The Drama Queen (or King)
Have you ever had a co-worker who makes a big deal out of nothing? All the time? He runs around like a chicken with his head cut off, and when you ask him what the problem is, it’s quite anticlimactic (because after the huge fuss he made, you thought the entire world was burning). Yep. That’s a drama queen.
Mistakes happen. People mess up. But not each one of these situations needs to be much ado about nothin’. Before you stage a major freak out, take a step back from the problem at hand and assess it objectively. If you’re having trouble doing that on your own, it’s OK to (calmly) chat about the situation with a colleague, or even your boss. Most things really aren’t as bad as you think they are, so don’t pull the fire alarm all the time.
5. The Lazy One
Listen, there are always going to be tasks we don’t want to do. That’s not just the nature of every job, but it’s the nature of life, too. But doing a shoddy job because you’re too lazy hurts your team and you. Think about it: If you’re not putting in 100%, you’re also not taking advantage of the opportunity to learn new things and build upon current skill sets. And, you’re making your team believe you’re fairly useless. Are you?
The solution is easy here—put your best effort into everything you do. No, you don’t have to go above and beyond all the time. But you should make sure you fulfill all of your responsibilities—and that you do it well.
6. The Know-it-All
Wise words from my dad: Just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you always need to be talking. And it’s true. Yes, you shouldn’t “hide the truth” from your co-workers. If they’re going down a completely incorrect path and headed for disaster, you should steer them in the right direction if you can.
But, you don’t need to say something just to prove someone wrong or to show off how brilliant you are.
Ask yourself: “Is what I’m about to say relevant to the conversation? Does it help anyone, or does it just show off my completely unrelated knack for computing difficult calculus problems in my head?”
Telling everyone every single thing you know doesn’t make them like you. It doesn’t make them think you’re the next Einstein. It makes them think you’re really freaking annoying.
7. The Self-Server
Speaking of hiding the truth from your colleagues, this is totally something the self-server would do. Instead of lending a hand, you keep valuable information to yourself and only share it when it can make you look good (i.e., in front of your boss or the CEO of the company).
Other things the self-server does? Takes credit for others’ work, throws people under the bus, and goes above and beyond to knock his projects out of the park but declines to help others (just to name a few slimy traits).
Eliminate your ego from the game and learn how to do what’s not only best for you, but for your team and the company as well. Climbing on top of others to ascend up the ladder may work well in the short-term, but when you come crashing down later, no one will be there to help you up.
8. Negative Nancy (or Ned)
Negative Nancy types are the exact opposite of the people who try to find the silver lining in everything. Instead, they make sure everyone knows what’s wrong with every single situation. Every. Single. One.
Before you open your mouth, answer this: “Does this feedback provide any sort of value? Or is it just me whining again?” Even if you do decide that it needs to be said, try to keep any adverse feelings out of it.
Here’s an example of what a Negative Nancy could say, “The way the product team designed this is complete crap, as per usual.” Basically, just insulting the product folks and adding no suggestions to rectify the problem. Nice.
Instead, one should say: “I’ve noticed these design aspects make it a little tricky to accomplish our goal. Do you think we could discuss this with the product team to see if there’s a way we can work together to improve it?
It’s really hard to look at yourself objectively—most times, you won’t even notice that the habits you formed are causing others to throw darts at your photo. And, I repeat: In most situations, I don’t think you should give a second thought to what others think or say about you.
But at work, a bad reputation can severely hinder your career success and movement forward. And, the truth is, if you’ve gained a “reputation,” it’s likely because it’s not just a one-time thing. Rather than panic that you’ve ruined everything forever, instead take a look at your behavior and start working hard to change it. You’ll be the most beloved person in the office in no time. Or, at least, more beloved than you were before.
Abby is the Health Education Coordinator at American University in Washington, DC. When she’s not trying to make the world a healthier place, you can find her taking selfies with her cat (Mildred Meow Meow), hunting down the city's best grilled cheese, or zipping through the city on her bike, named Libby. Say hi on Twitter.More from this Author