Career Advice

4 Steps to Repair Your Reputation at Work

Two young women laughing behind their male colleague

Maybe you botched a couple of major projects or had a recent deadline you fell down on. No matter the case, sometimes all it takes is a few critical mistakes to tarnish your reputation at the office. And once that happens, not only might your colleagues begin to respect you less, but you could also start losing out on key opportunities going forward. That’s why it pays to repair your reputation if you’re convinced it’s taken a beating. Here’s how.

1. Own Up to Your Shortcomings and Apologize

We’re all human, and from time to time we fall victim to carelessness and poor habits. But if you’re serious about cleaning up your act, the first thing you ought to do is acknowledge your failings and apologize to those impacted by them. For example, if you procrastinated too much and missed a project deadline that left your boss looking incompetent, sit down with him or her and let them know you’re sorry. Don’t make excuses for your behavior — just own up to it and pledge to do better in the future. A little humility could be your ticket to rebuilding your character quickly.

2. Show, Don’t Tell

Once you’ve apologized for the actions (or inactions) that caused your reputation to take a dive, you’ll need to prove to those around you that you’re capable of changing your ways. This means that if you’re now being regarded as a slacker for showing up late and failing to meet deadlines, make a point of clocking in on time every day and rocking your next bunch of projects. If it’s come to your attention that others consider you unpleasant or negative, make a point of offering positive feedback during your next team meeting. The key is to show your coworkers that you’re capable of doing better and being better.

3. Be Generous With Your Time

It’s hard to dislike that person who’s always going out of his or her way to be helpful. So if your reputation at work has been suffering of late, start giving more of your time to make other people’s lives easier. You might offer to compile some data for your boss for his weekly report. Or you might jump in to help a colleague troubleshoot issues with your company’s internal software. It doesn’t really matter what you do specifically, as long as you go out of your way to accommodate others to the point where your actions are noticeable.

4. Commit to a Better You in Writing

Maybe you apologized for messing up that presentation and made sure to do well with the following one you gave. And perhaps you even made a point of helping some struggling coworkers along the way. While those actions will no doubt help your reputation improve, let’s face it: It’s easy enough to fall back into our old ways. So if you want to avoid winding up right back where you started, establish some personal goals that will help you maintain a solid reputation from this point on. These might include coming in early several times a week, getting better about creating daily to-do lists or scheduling time for proofreading so you’re more thoroughly editing your work. Having some goals mapped out will help you stay on track, which means your reputation will likely follow suit.

An unfavorable reputation can ruin your career — but it doesn’t have to. Follow these tips, and with any luck, you’ll be back in your coworkers’ good graces before you know it.

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This article was originally published on The Motley Fool. It is reprinted with permission.

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