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10 Ways You Might Be Sabotaging Your Reputation

Think about career mistakes and big moments come to mind — not taking that plum job, bungling a big presentation, getting passed over for a promotion. But it’s the day-to-day decisions that can really make or break your career. Your sum total of your everyday choices is your reputation, and it’s the often-overlooked key to unlocking success.

We’re all guilty of slipping up from time to time. But if you’re consistently doing the following, you could be sabotaging your reputation — and your future.

Are you sabotaging your reputation?

Bad Mouthing Others

It can be difficult to restrain yourself in the heat of the moment, but unkind words about your colleagues make you look untrustworthy. If you’re talking about a co-worker behind her back, how is the listener supposed to believe that you won’t do the same about him?

Using Foul Language

There are a few industries where blue language is tolerated and maybe even expected. But that’s not the case for 99 percent of us. Although some people might find off-color language provocative, or even funny, you run the risk of offending people and looking unprofessional.

Below the Belt Humour

Dirty jokes are never, ever a good idea in a business setting. Stories or jokes that poke fun at a co-worker make you look even worse: Not only will you seem classless, but you run the real risk of insulting your colleague. Insults don’t fade well with time. You never know which co-workers might be able to open doors for you over the course of a 40- or 50-year career — don’t burn bridges for the sake of a laugh.

Illegal Activities

A DUI, a drug bust, or other consequences of illegal activity aren’t just a personal stain on your reputation. They can cast a long shadow over the length of your career. For better or worse, people love sharing salacious gossip. You don’t want to be the subject of it! Plus, thanks to online arrest records, your mugshot could be available for the world to see for years to come.

Making Promises you can’t Keep

Following through on what you say you’re going to do is the mark of integrity. When you don’t, you not only create more unwelcome challenges for the people around you who have to pick up your slack, but you damage your own reputation, as well.


This should go without saying, shouldn’t it? Yet it’s still worth mentioning. Dishonesty might help you secure funding or propel a project forward in the short term, but in the long term it can be damaging — and even lead to legal action. Be honest in your dealings, even when it’s not to your advantage, and you’ll be rewarded in the long run.

Inappropriate Dressing

Both men and women are guilty of this. Keep your work clothes work appropriate. That means no old gym shorts, no sky-high heels, no stained T-shirts, no sheer blouses. Times are changing though when it comes to casual vs vs business as mentioned in this article. Bottom line – understand your workplace dress culture.


When you interrupt, you’re saying, “My thoughts are more important than yours.” You are, quite literally, stealing someone’s voice. Not only is it demeaning, it’s a missed opportunity for you to learn by actively listening. Do both yourself and your coworkers the courtesy of waiting until it’s your turn to speak.

Not Being Inclusive

Sharing credit isn’t just good for your coworkers, it’s good for you, too — and this is especially true if you’re in a leadership position. By taking your own ego out of the equation, you make everyone else look successful. That doesn’t mean that you should diminish your own part in your triumphs, but you should never miss an opportunity to lift up your colleagues and help them shine.

Never Celebrating Others’ Success

What do you do when a colleague receives a promotion? Do you take them out for lunch to celebrate, or do you mope over their good fortune because you’re not experiencing it yourself? Whether you chalk this behavior up to jealousy, mean-spiritedness, or just a self-centered attitude, the result is petty. Be generous with your praise and admiration of your colleagues — what goes around comes around.

Interested in improving your work etiquette IQ? My blog contains articles about topics ranging from gift-giving to conducting conference calls and beyond.

Margaret Page


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