Where Does our Professional Reputation Come From?

Posted in : HR Updates on 16 January 2012
Nicola Shaw
Issues covered:

Nicola Shaw writes:

  • How do you perceive your skills and abilities?
  • Do you rate yourself as being good; being exceptional; or on the way to being good?
  • Do others have the same opinion?

1. How do Others Form an Opinion of You?

People form their opinion based on what they experience for themselves; and also, what others tell them. It can come from one fleeting interaction. For example, I would suspect that there are several recruitment agencies out there that are very frustrated by me. I have a policy of only speaking to agencies when there is a valid purpose to the call i.e. I have a potential vacancy to place and want to identify if they are the right source for me to utilise. If it is a speculative call, I don’t tend to take it, as I quite simply don’t have the time, being in a busy, singleton role. Therefore I would imagine there are recruitment consultants who think I am unapproachable and unreliable, because I never return their voicemails or take their calls. (sorry!)

It can often be that people who you don’t know will think they know all about you based on something they have been told about you, or because of a 5 minute interaction with you. For example, it could be based on the view of someone who was dismissed from a company you worked for ten years ago and who was not accepting of the validity of that decision and your role in the process.

2. How to Mange Your Reputation

As HR Professionals, how can we ensure that our reputation is good? Personally, I think this may be difficult, as again, it is linked to perception:

  • Employee: "I think he/she’s a great HR Manager because I get off with everything and never get told no." The rub with that one is that it is unlikely that your employer will think you are effective and therefore, you are likely to find the longevity of the role an issue.
  • Employer: 'I think he/she is great as anything I ask them to do, no matter how ridiculous, they do it. I say 'jump' and they say 'how high'". The problem with that is, employees are unlikely to respect you and unions will also not wish to deal with you, as they see you as a company person, plus there is the risk of litigation and the impact that could have for you, and your organisation.

It is a difficult one for our profession to handle. I very much believe that we are only as good as our last interaction with someone. I took a lot of pride and satisfaction from the fact that following a redundancy process in one of my previous employers, people sought me out to shake my hand before they left and to say thank you for listening to them along the way. I also got invited to some of the leaving dos. From a professional perspective, there were no complaints, which was the goal in spending so much time planning and managing the communications associated with the process. I took that as a successful and effective job done.

I don’t sit and think “what can I do today to ensure I have a good reputation”; instead it is something that I consider as being a part and parcel of what I do; and ultimately, who I am. I strive to do my job to the best of my ability; I conduct research where my knowledge on something has gaps and try and ensure that my advice and recommendations are based on sound and relevant information. I know that some people won’t like me because of my personality or because I have been involved in a difficult situation that has impacted on them, but if I am able to stand back and be satisfied with the reasonableness of our approach in the circumstances, I can sleep knowing that people don’t like me. More important to me, is that people respect me.

3. Recommendations

  • Be as consistent, transparent and reasonable as you can in all of your interactions i.e. what you see is what you get. People have to be able to trust what you are saying and understand your approach.
  • When meeting others, make a conscious effort to get on with them and be interested in what they say. Have you checked out online sources to find out more about them? This will go a long way to dispelling any myth out there that you are self-serving and walk over others.
  • Don’t be afraid of sharing a bit of your private world with people. There have been several occasions in my career, where people have been going through a difficult situation and I found that by sharing (as appropriate) my experiences in a similar situation that they responded a lot better to any advice or guidance that I provided; and would continue to communicate with me. 
  • Have a business profile. For example, I use Linkedin to manage my external profile. This is an opportunity for people to see in a snapshot a summary of my career to date and the skills that I believe I have acquired. For me, this blog is also an opportunity for me to manage my profile. How many of you had heard of me before you read this blog? Not too many I would imagine, as the HR community doesn’t tend to market itself in the same way that accountants or solicitors do. My reputation with you is based on what I have written here... the pressure!!
  • Who do you look up to? Who have you tailored your approach on? Do you mirror your actions and responses on the basis of someone you respect? Have you taken a step back and considered if their response and therefore, your mimicked response is appropriate in the circumstances of your job? Is mimicking the joker in the pack appropriate in a disciplinary process? Don’t be afraid to take a stand and be your own person. You have to be true to yourself.

4. My Final Thought

Think about the kind of reputation that you would like to have and work every day to try and ensure that you live it out. And remember:

“Your reputation will be where your feet will never wonder”. 

This article is correct at 10/11/2015

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Nicola Shaw

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