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Your Reputation at Work

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Linda Barnes
January 12, 2016

Why it’s Important to Have a Positive Reputation at Work  

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Your reputation is the most important career capital you have. Often, your reputation precedes you and it’s the first thing managers and employees know about you. So, it’s important that you have a good reputation and you live up to it in reality.

Having a positive reputation in the workplace helps ensure current and future success on the job. You may be offered more interesting and challenging work and promotions because you are perceived as being able to get the job done.

Elements of a Positive Work Reputation

According to the Robert Walters website, these are some elements of a positive work reputation:

  • Reliability – completing tasks timely, being punctual and following business procedures and protocol will enable managers and coworkers to rely on you, resulting in new projects with greater responsibility.
  • Efficiency – good time management and a strong work ethic shows your commitment to the job and builds a positive reputation.
  • Positive Attitude – it is important to be open to trying new initiatives. This also makes you more approachable to others.
  • Initiative – if you see a way to improve something, let your manager know. It shows your commitment to doing a good job for the good of the organization.
  • Relationship Building – having good relationships with managers, colleagues and stake holders will help to accomplish the goals of the organization, make work more enjoyable and increase your chances for promotion. 

Steps to Building a Positive Work Reputation

According to author Selena Rezvani, the following are effective reputation-builders at work:

  1. Don’t Go in Unprepared: before going into a meeting, make sure to read any materials that were distributed and briefly research areas that are unclear. You should think of your preparation time as something that translates to respect for your audience.
  2. Be Consistent: make sure you maintain and project a positive demeanor in each interaction you have with managers, coworkers or clients. This increases your credibility on the job.
  3. Keep Your Promises: don’t make commitments and promises you can’t keep. If you over-commit and don’t deliver you will be seen as misleading and untrustworthy.
  4. Buy into Yourself: the foundation of a great reputation is believing you have something of value and importance to share and contribute and projecting that belief. When trying to advance, being unknown can be as hard to overcome as having a bad reputation.
  5. Don’t Complain: it is not good to be known as someone who can’t be pleased. Do not be stuck on issues. Become known as a constructive thinker who tries to solve problems instead of just complaining about them. 

How to Repair a Negative Work Reputation

Repairing a negative work reputation can be difficult. That’s why it’s so important to develop and keep a positive work reputation. Even though it may be difficult, there are steps you can take to repair or improve a negative work reputation.

  1. Prove Your Intent to be Taken Seriously:  key in on the areas that need improvement and over-deliver on those items. For example, if you had a bad reputation for not being timely in meeting deadlines, finish your next project/assignment early.
  2. Consistently Meet Your Deadlines: make sure you turn everything in on or before the due date without exception. It is very important to communicate clearly about the deadlines to ensure everyone has the same understanding and knows what to expect and when.
  3. Under-Promise and Over-Deliver: deliver the product early, under budget and better than expected. This way you set the expectations.
  4. Keep Your Criticism to Yourself: if you complain at work you’ll sound like a whiner. Don’t take on a new responsibility unless you can deliver.
  5. Invite Your Coworkers to Activities Outside Work: getting together after work hours can help form a better work bond, because you’ll get to know each other better and may find you have things in common.
  6. Engage in Active Listening: it is important to repeat back to the person what they said and how you understand it. This will help the person feel listened to or will help them try to explain again. This is good communication.
  7. Be Firm but Kind: if you’re in a position of responsibility, you want your coworkers or employees to respect you. Therefore, you should be firm but flexible. 

My Own Experience

It has been my experience that the importance of having a positive reputation at work cannot be over-stated. Virtually everything depends on it. Your reputation can make or break you on the job.

I also think it’s important to note that a reputation is mainly perception. So, you can be doing a great job, but if the manager doesn’t like you for whatever reason you’ll be perceived as being a bad worker, i.e., have a bad reputation. That’s why it’s important to maintain positive relationships with management and coworkers, so your reputation can be more universal. Then, if the manager doesn’t like you and says something negative about you, others won’t believe it because their own personal experiences with you prove otherwise.


Author: Linda Barnes is a management and program analyst with the Internal Revenue Service, where she specializes in human resource and administrative matters. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Northeastern Illinois University and a MPA degree from American Public University. Email:  [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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