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To Manage Your Professional Reputation, Learn Who’s On Your Team

Manage your professional reputationYou will be passed over for jobs, projects, and second dates and never know why. Being passed over isn’t necessarily a bad thing, not knowing why is problematic. If you don’t know why you’re being passed over, how can you be prepared for next time?

Organizations are political. People talk. You’ve undoubtedly already experienced this.

If you want to manage your professional reputation, one thing you must know is who talks about you and what they say. How decisions get made in organizations isn’t always obvious. There are the obvious channels of decision making, like your boss and your boss’s boss. But there are also the people who talk to your boss and boss’s boss and have an opinion about you, who you may not be aware of.

Everyone in an organization has people they trust, who they listen to and confide in. Who those trusted people are isn’t always obvious. When you’re being considered for a new position or project, the decision makers will invariably ask others for their opinion. Knowing who does and doesn’t support you in a future role is essential to managing your professional reputation and career.

I don’t want you to be nervous, paranoid, or suspicious at work. I do want you to be savvy, smart, and aware.

It’s not difficult to find out who can impact your professional reputation at work, you just need to ask the people who know. Start with your boss. S/he likely knows and will tell you, if you ask.

To ensure you know who can impact your professional reputation, tell your boss:

“I really enjoy working here. I enjoy the people, the work and our industry. I’m committed to growing my career with this organization.”

Then ask:

  • Who in the organization should I have a good relationship with?
  • Who/what departments should I be working closely with?
  • Who impacts my professional reputation and the opportunities I have?
  • What skills do I have that the organization values most?
  • What contributions have I made that the organization values most?
  • What mistakes have I made from which I need to recover?

Your manager doesn’t walk around thinking about the answers to these questions. If you want thoughtful answers, set a time to meet with your boss, tell him/her the purpose of the meeting – to get feedback on your professional reputation so you can adeptly manage your career – and send the questions in advance, giving your boss time to prepare for the meeting. You will get more thoughtful and complete answers if your boss has two weeks to think about the questions and ask others for input.

Don’t be caught off guard by a less-than-stellar professional reputation. Take control of your reputation and career. Ask more. Assume less.

Write a comment about this week’s blog and we’ll enter your organization to win 50 professional reputation bookmarks!

Manage your professional reputation


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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6 Responses to “To Manage Your Professional Reputation, Learn Who’s On Your Team”

  1. Deanne Moore says:

    I love this! This will help me tremendously. It is my goal to do this in the next month. Thank you very much.

  2. Bud Bilanich says:

    This is great advice. Too many people don’t realize that they need to actively manage their career. This is a great first step in career management.

  3. Denise Liebetrau says:

    Great questions! I asked for feedback in this way recently. “I value your feedback and one of my development goals this year is to gain a better understanding of how I am seen by internal customers and colleagues. I’m specifically interested in my blinds spots. You know, those things we do that are off putting to others, that we’re not aware of. The only way I will be able to change my behavior, is if I know what behaviors are standing in my way. So here is my question…If you had to choose three words to describe me, what would they be?”

  4. Beth Sagar says:

    Ask more, assume less — that says it all! I love these questions! All of them are great but if I could only ask two, they would be:
    What contributions have I made that the organization values most?
    What mistakes have I made from which I need to recover?
    …and yes, I will be asking them!

  5. Janene A says:

    Thank you for writing this! This is something I have personally been thinking about and this blog has given me the push I need to take action.

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