How to Maintain a Positive Image at Work

Ever wonder about the strength of your reputation, or how others perceive you at work? Perhaps you think your colleagues find you credible and trustworthy. You may even believe you wield influence in the workplace and that people listen to your suggestions and take your advice. Perhaps you’re wrong because what we think of ourselves is not always true.

Many people believe they do a great job managing their reputations and selling themselves in the workplace. They get a mentor to help guide their upward momentum. They hire coaches to fine-tune their skills. However, they don’t realize that the day-to-day mistakes they make can cost them in the end. Our peers, bosses, customers and employees not only create a perception of us during high-stakes moments but also while observing our everyday interactions. 

In mere moments, the simplest mistakes can cost us what has taken months of coaching and mentors to create. Avoiding these three professional mishaps can keep your career from faltering:

1. Tardiness

No matter how hard we try, there are days when the clock is not our friend. Lateness happens to the best of us. Whether it’s traffic, a long-running meeting or an alarm that didn’t go off, we are all bound to be late at some point, for some reason. The occasional time-not-on-your-side mishaps won’t create a reputation crisis. It’s those chronic late arrivals that cost trust in the workplace. People will grow to expect it from you. Even so, they will never get over the disrespect they feel each time you interrupt another meeting that started on time. Not only will they grow irritated and resentful, but they’ll also begin to believe you aren’t dependable.

How to fix-it: Be honest with yourself. To arrive early is to arrive on time. To arrive on time is to arrive late. Get ahead of your bad habits. If you’re late to work each day, plan to leave the house earlier. Prepare the night before by getting everything pulled together and ready to go. Don’t leave any chores, errands or efforts until the morning. Accomplish what you can the night before. Assign small chunks of time to finish each daily effort: 15 minutes to shower, 15 minutes to dress, 15 minutes to eat breakfast. Watch the clock diligently to ensure you stay on track.

If you run late, be quiet about it. Gather what is needed and walk in gracefully. Look collected and take your seat. Don’t announce your arrival or come up with excuses as to why you’re late yet again.

2. Technology

When you tune others out and tune into technology, you send a message that those around you aren’t as important as your phone. When you text during a meeting, you subconsciously tell the speaker and other attendees that what they have to say isn’t important and that your text is more important than their time.

As you walk down the hall with your head buried in your phone, you tell others that their presence isn’t important. It’s this type of rude behavior that creates animosity and frustration.

How to fix-it: Avoid using technology, unless you are at your desk and not otherwise engaged in a meeting or conversation. Even better, avoid temptation altogether by leaving it behind when you attend a meeting or head to another office. When it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. Focus your time and attention on those who most deserve it. This will help you build stronger workplace relationships and create a reputation for engagement and interest.

3. Excuses

How to fix-it: Expect more from yourself. Just because everyone does it doesn’t permit you to do it, too. Raise the bar and others will follow your lead. Arrive on time when others don’t. Engage when others are quiet. Honor those you work with by taking ownership of your bad habits and committing to do better. When others see the effort you make, their trust in you will grow. You will set the example that others will soon follow. Your ability to influence others to act will rise.

Committing to improving your high-stakes performance is important. Just don’t underestimate the power of your daily behaviors, too. In these day-to-day moments, people come to believe the person they observe is the true you. If you want influence in the workplace, pinpoint the small habits that currently cost you, then own the mistakes. Commit to making mindful changes. Before long, respect and credibility will follow.

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