You Really Can Change Your Reputation at Work

by Carolyn O’Hara

Do you ever feel that people have the wrong impression of you at work? Maybe you’ve been pegged as arrogant after you advocated for your project or as a pushover after a negotiation gone awry. How can you change others’ perceptions of you? Should you directly address the reputation you want to shake? Or should you focus your energy on changing your ways?

What the Experts Say
It can be frustrating when others don’t see us as we intend. “But we forget that we have so much more information about ourselves than other people do,” says Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of No One Understands You and What to Do About It. We also forget that nearly every action is open to multiple interpretations. Take the seemingly straightforward act of bringing someone a cup of coffee. You may intend it as a nice gesture but others might see it as the opening salvo in asking someone for a favor. Resist the urge to say someone’s understanding of the situation is mistaken, says Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You and Stand Out. “A person’s perception may be different from what you feel is the truth, but it’s not necessarily wrong,” she says. “It’s real for them, and the onus is on you, not them, to work to change the dynamic.”
Here’s how to change your reputation at work.

  1. Be upfront about the issue
  2. Don’t get defensive
  3. Look for opportunities to work together
  4. Go above and beyond
  5. Find common ground
  6. Have patience

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