Protecting your reputation

When being a good person isn’t enough.

I consider myself to be a good person. Like everyone, I have my moments where I’m not the kind compassionate person I am normally, but those are the exception, not the rule. Our reputations in the workplace impact how we interact with our co-workers and what sorts of promotion opportunities we are given or if we are given them at all.

To make matters worse, in every walk of life there are people who will try to destroy your reputation. For whatever reason they just decide that you are a problem for them and they either spread rumors or lie or bully or demean. All of these tactics have the same goal, to get other people to not trust you or look up to you so that the bully can get access to the resources that would normally go to you. They now go to them.

It isn’t enough to be nice in these situations. Yes, you do have to be nice, but being nice doesn’t mean not protecting your reputation.  But how you do that will impact how other people perceive you.
If you fight back, you are just as bad as the bully.

If you do nothing, you are meek and weak.

The sweet spot is to stand up for yourself professionally.  You can do this in a way that makes it clear you won’t tolerate bad behavior, but that you aren’t the problem and you aren’t contributing to the problem.

When people attack our reputations, it is startling. We aren’t sure whether other people believe us or the person smearing us.  When I counsel people on how to get through this they are amazed that I tell them they don’t have to defend themselves for smears. Standing up for yourself doesn’t mean getting into an argument about whether or not you are horrid. You aren’t, so you don’t need to defend that.

What you need to do is make sure that you don’t cocoon yourself. If you are attacked directly have something prepared to say that is polite but makes it clear that rumor mongering isn’t tolerated. Something like – in this office we treat people with respect. And smile and make eye contact. It’s now the other person’s move. You haven’t attacked them, just reminded them what a professional interaction is like.

If they are accusing you of not getting things done, start covering your patootie. Put out memos of what you understand the verbal agreements to be. And then follow through.  It won’t take long for the people around you to notice that you are behaving and the other person is not.

Finally, don’t assume that just because your co-workers don’t stand up for you that they believe the bully. People have been conditioned since childhood to keep their heads down around a bully. When you stand up for yourself, people will notice. Trust that they can see what you can see.

If you want to learn more – consider reading my book: The Bully Vaccine or taking my online video course – Ending Harassment & Retaliation in the Workplace.

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