Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 93 – Protecting your professional reputation

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
Jeff Bezos (1964 – )

Last month we discussed the importance of creating a uniform “user experience”, today I would like to take that one step further and discuss the personal aspect and how we can protect our professional reputation as part of the overall user experience.

Image as part of your professional reputation:

Your outward appearance plays a huge part (IMO) with regards to your professional reputation. Would you knowingly go to work wearing odd shoes, with ladders in your stockings or egg on your tie? I hope you said “no” to that question. But it does make me wonder if people bother to check in a mirror before they leave for work some days. Clothes that look like they’ve been slept in, unwashed hair, chipped nail polish, uniforms that are too tight and not at all flattering all seem to be part of the unspoken culture that now permeates our working lives. Please don’t get me wrong,

I am a great believer in individuality, but for me some things are a no-no in the workplace, for example:

  • Short (read VERY SHORT) skirts
  • Midriffs and far too much (how can I put this delicately?) – OK I can’t – cleavage and underwear on display. And just as importantly (to me)
  • Attitudes and ego’s you can see on a clear day from the other side of the room.

We appear to have a don’t care and who are you to tell me that I should attitude, or is that just Australia?

We have, I assume, all had the bad user experience because of the person who failed to serve us in a professional manner. How likely are you to return to a place if, not only the person was rude, hostile or indifferent towards you and your needs – but that translated across their demeanor and their “look” as well? For me, it comes down to a word – it “depends” on what service I was requesting. If I was buying a cup of coffee, then the answer is – probably. If it was a store, I may choose to go to a different till the next time. But if it was a personal service, the answer is probably not. And my reason is this – if you can’t look after yourself, how can you expect to treat me with any kind of respect?

So far we have spoken about personal interactions, let’s widen the discussion now to include social media.

I have a personal Facebook page and a business page. They are interlinked, because I am, my business.
I also have a Twitter account – same rule applies.

It can take years to build and develop a professional reputation, the last thing I want to do is ruin it in 140 characters or less, so I am very careful what I write, the pictures I post and the conversations I have.

Not so, some of the people who used to appear in my twitter feeds and facebook timeline. I don’t spam my contacts and I dislike being the recipient of the same, so people are advised and then removed if necessary. Nor do I rant, rave, flame, swear or publically abuse people as some feel they have the right to do.  

So it never ceases to amaze me how many people are still doing it, and then wondering why they are dismissed from their work places.

“But my profile was private”

Given that Facebook has the “nasty” habit of changing their privacy settings every 5 minutes, you cannot rely on that statement as your defence for doing it in the first place.

Thoughts to consider:

Social Media Policies:
Like e-mail and general internet policies, these need to be in writing and reviewed regularly. They also need to be distributed to employees on a regular basis as a reminder of what is acceptable and what is not.

Do as I say and not as I do, or “people in glass houses should not throw stones”:
Be above reproach in all your dealings – either face-to-face or in the electronic realm. If you do not allow certain internet sites to be available via the work environment, don’t be surprised if people use their smart phones and tablets to do so. Sometimes it is easier to manage the issue with the use of acceptable social media policies, than to expect people to not find a way around it. “Proxy servers anyone?”

Background Checks:
Not only have people been dismissed for comments they have made on the social media sites, but job offers have been rescinded or interviews have not been offered as a direct result of the same. If you would like to test this theory for yourself, imagine you were going for a job interview – how many organisations would not plug your name into the search engines and social media sites before meeting you? Have you searched for your own name recently? Believe me it is a good idea to do so, and attempt to remove or have removed on your behalf – things that are not going to show you in a professional manner. And don’t forget to check the image search as well as anyone can tag your name on any number of pictures you may have wished had never been taken.