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Know Your Reputation and Advance Your Career

advance your careerUnfortunately you probably already know that people have a tendency to talk about you, not to you. It’s human nature. Sometimes it’s gossip. Other times senior leaders talk about your future with the organization. If you want to advance your career, you need to know what the people whose opinions you care about say about you when you’re not there.

Unfortunately most people get very little feedback at work. If today was the day of your performance appraisal and I asked how your boss and whoever else provides input on your review would rate you, you probably don’t know. This lack of knowledge prevents you from advancing your career.

Not knowing someone’s opinion doesn’t mean you’re not subject to it. Akin to getting a speeding ticket when you didn’t know you were speeding. The cop doesn’t care. He adds four points to your driving record, despite that you didn’t know the speed limit.

You may work for a manager who gives feedback. You may not. It doesn’t matter. There are people in your life who will tell you the truth (as they see it), if you ask.

I recommend assembling a core group of people who you count on to tell you the truth. These are the people who know you well and have your back. They can be friends, family members, past coworkers, customers, or managers.

You might wonder, “What can my mom or friends from high school or college tell me about how I behave at work?” The answer–a lot.

We don’t become different people when we arrive at work. We are who we are. If you’re often late, break commitments, or wear clothing that’s not your friend, you do those things at home and at work. Likewise, if you have great attention to detail, never break commitments, and always look great (in public), you friends and family know.

Identify a few people, personal and/or professional, who care about you and will tell you the truth.

Tell these folks you want to eliminate your blind spots. Ask them for specific feedback, and promise that no matter what they say and how hard it is to hear, you will say “thank you.” Then be sure to manage yourself.  It’s normal to become defensive when we get constructive feedback. But every time we become defensive, we train people it’s not safe to tell us the truth. If you want people to give you feedback, more than once, make it easy to tell you the truth.

You may be thinking that asking for feedback  is unrealistic. People won’t be honest. And you can’t take it.

The people who really care about you will be honest, and you can take it. You’ll be fine. In fact you’ll be better off than before you had the conversations. You might hear things that pleasantly surprise you. And the things you don’t like? Just because no one talked to you about them before you asked, doesn’t mean those behaviors didn’t impact you. Now you can do something about them.

Get out of the dark and into control. Discover your reputation and advance your career.


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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