Combating a Negative Professional Image


You’ve finally realized your tardy arrivals, loose lips and ripped jeans are doing you no favours at work. But how can you move beyond your spotty past?

To turn around a negative reputation at work, start by being open about your behaviour with your boss and even your co-workers, says Barbara Hughes, a career coach and human resources consultant in Vancouver. It helps to show you’re learning from your mistakes, Hughes says, and could even help you to stick to your commitment to change. “You might inspire others to do the same thing,” she says. “Then that also demonstrates leadership.”

Although an office-wide memo outlining your intentions isn’t necessary, Hughes recommends at least communicating your commitment to change to your boss.

Admit that you’re behaviour or attire has been less than perfect in the past and outline your plans to make improvements, Hughes says. She suggests telling the boss about your intentions with a simple statement. “State, I’m recommitting and here’s my plan to go about it and just thought I’d let you know,” Hughes says.

You can then invite your boss to provide you with feedback or comments.

Making amends for major mishaps

But what if you’ve committed an embarrassing social blunder at work or accidentally emailed confidential information to your entire department?

“Someone who gets drunk at a Christmas party, I think that’s just poor judgment. It happens, but what’s important is being able to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” says Ada Ip, human resources manager for Teligence, a Vancouver company that develops and delivers enhanced voice-enabled services. “Poor judgment is easier to turn around than repetitive behaviour.”

Once again, communication is key. Hughes recommends acknowledging your mistakes at the first opportunity and doing more than simply saying you’re sorry. “Own it, learn from it, develop a plan around it and communicate it,” she says.

Following through

Once you’ve made it clear you’re turning over a new leaf, make sure you stick to your guns. If you have a reputation for lateness, for example, plan to arrive at work 10 minutes early or hand in completed assignments before the deadline. Proving that your commitment to change is lasting will show your boss just how reliable you are. And that, says Hughes, can garner you the positive attention you were looking for.