Do you ever have the feeling that people at work have the incorrect image of you? Maybe you were labelled arrogant after you pushed for your idea or as a pushover after a stalemate in a negotiation. How can you influence how others see you? Should you speak directly to the person whose reputation you wish to smear? Should you concentrate your efforts on altering your habits?
It’s aggravating when others don’t view us the way we want them to. But, as Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of No One Understands You and What to Do About It, points out, “we forget that we know so much more information about ourselves than other people do.” We also forget that virtually every action can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Take, for example, the seemingly simple act of handing someone a cup of coffee. You may view it as a pleasant gesture, but others may interpret it as the first volley in a favor request.
According to Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You and Stand Out, resist the impulse to suggest someone’s perspective of the issue is incorrect. “A person’s viewpoint may differ from what you believe to be the truth, but that does not mean it is incorrect,” she continues. “For them, it’s real, and it’s up to you, not them, to strive to shift the dynamic.” Here’s how to improve your professional reputation.
1.Be honest about the problem.
When you realize you’ve created a bad impression or think you’ve been unfairly labelled, it’s a good idea to confront the problem head-on. If you believe you have insulted a coworker, seek out to express your regret. If you’ve been late with two reports in a row, approach your boss and explain that you’re aware of the problem and that it won’t happen again. “Naming the problem demonstrates that you are aware of it,” Clark adds. It can also begin the process of altering how you are viewed. Otherwise, she adds, “the bad connection merely festers and strengthens in people’s minds.”
2.Don’t become defensive.
If you do confront the misunderstanding directly, avoid becoming angry or casting aspersions. “You can’t go into the conversation saying, ‘You know, I think you view me as a jerk, and I’m not,’” says Grant Halvorson. “You’re effectively accusing them of misinterpreting you.” Accept that they have feelings towards you and, if necessary, apologize. Then focus your efforts on establishing a reputation that you believe is more representative of your true self.
3.Seek out chances to collaborate.
Simply stating that you are not a pushover or sticking up for yourself once would not be enough. “Being polite once isn’t enough to overcome an initial impression of arrogance,” Grant Halvorson adds. You must give proof to the contrary, and the more evidence you provide, the better. She says, “Frequency is your friend.” A good method to accomplish this, especially if you don’t see the person you’re attempting to persuade on a daily basis, is to offer to work with them. Not only do you have more chances to persuade them to alter their minds, but the individual is also more driven to change their view about you.
4.Go the extra mile
It’s difficult to persuade people to alter their opinions, so when your reputation is on the line, Clark advises, “you have to overdeliver.” “Getting into the workplace at 9:01 AM is a problem” if you have a reputation for arriving late to work. Instead, you must arrive at 8:45 a.m. If you feel you offended someone with an offhand remark, you must be extra cautious about what you say. If your manager believes you’re the quietest person in the room, you’ll have to change that today. Make regular, insightful comments. “You need to recast yourself and maybe act radically against type,” Clark adds.
5.Look for common ground.
“Finding common ground causes the other person to think of ‘us’ instead of ‘them,’” Clark explains. “They will be much more open to listening to you and taking in everything you have to say.” Living in the same area, wearing the same brand of shoes, or being a dog lover are all examples of shared traits. When others feel you have anything in common, they will automatically re-categorize you, says Grant Halvorson. “They’ll think to themselves, ‘We want the same things, and we’re working toward the same objective.’ And when we’re in our ‘in’ group, we naturally have a much more positive attitude about them.”
Don’t expect to see results right away.
Grant Halvorson has a rule of thumb for estimating how long it will take to change someone’s perception: “Longer than you want it to.” Of course, it relies on a variety of circumstances, including the degree of disparity between the impression you provided and the image you wish to convey, as well as the number of opportunities you have to make your case. She claims that the stronger the impact, the longer it will take to alter. Give yourself a few months, according to Clark.