Warren Buffett is famous for saying that everything you do should be seen through the lens of how you’d feel if you saw it on the front page of a newspaper the next day. In other words, protect your reputation and do right every day.
While most of us live by this mantra in the large scale -- i.e., don’t engage in insider trading, duh! -- some falter when it comes to the little things. Those little things can add up to build what’s called the “book” about you -- the few words people use to describe your persona.
“Jack’s a great salesman, terrible manager.”
“Deborah’s a giver, and she gets things done.”
“Cody’s a smart guy, but he’s so disorganized.”
These are all things I’ve heard said about real people, over and over again in many different circles. Once you have a book on you, it’s hard to shake off because people repeat it amongst themselves, even if they haven’t a clue about who you are.
The best thing to do is watch out for even the small infractions you commit that can undermine your reputation. Here are seven of the most common ones:
1. Negativity: As I mentioned in an earlier post, sometimes it’s OK to gossip with your colleagues, as it builds a kinship. And yes, most gossip involves something a little negative about a person or the company. However, if almost everything you say every time you open your mouth is negative, you’ll likely be managed out pretty soon.
2. Reading Your Emails in Meetings: Everyone does this, including me. But it’s terribly offensive to whoever is speaking at the moment. Some people never get off their phones once they enter a meeting, so make it a point to stop.
3. Never Following Up on Introductions: I don’t care how great virtual technology is, nothing replaces face-to-face meetings. So when a colleague introduces you to a new person, be sure to follow up quickly. Shame on you if you don’t -- not only are you putting your own reputation at risk, you’ve just put your colleague’s at risk, too. A corollary to this is if you tell someone you’ll send him or her something the next day, be sure to actually send it the next day. People remember these things, but they almost never call you out on them.
4. Spelling Errors and Grammar Mistakes: This may be the English major in me talking, but even though you may have a perfectly good excuse as to why your emails are full of missing periods and weird capitalizations, you still come across as illiterate. Especially if the email is to your boss or senior colleagues. Take a few moments to spell check your emails and sentences. You don’t want to look careless.
5. Lying: This is pretty obvious. It’s still interesting to see how many people do it, not knowing that others have an easy way to check their stories out. This TED Talk on how to spot liars is one of my all-time favorites.
6. Sloppiness: These days, it’s perfectly normal to show up in jeans and kicks if you’re working at a tech company. But that doesn’t mean you can start wearing sweats and looking like you just came from the gym. If you’re not dressed to look your best at work then you won’t be treated the best. You don’t need to wear a three-piece suit, but caring about how you look shows that you care about your work and the people around you, too.
7. Showing Up Late: People are so scheduled out these days that if you’re even five minutes late you can mess up a whole afternoon’s worth of meetings. Not to mention being late is disrespectful. Sometimes being late can’t be helped, in which case always have the person’s cell number so you can call or text early and warn him or her.