A lunch conversation the other week, and we turned our talk to a mutual friend. My lunch partner (who does not work with him, but partners with others in the company) had recently spoken with him about his challenges inside the organisation.
“I told him-very indirectly-that his boss has been asking around about him. Nothing pointed, but he’s asking around.”
“How did he react when you told him?”
“Nonchalant. Wasn’t bothered, said he knew, thanked me, not much else.”
“Was that it?”
“No, actually not. I got more direct with him, told him he should watch it and be more careful. The truth is that some of the other team members have been muttering about him, I figure it’s gotten back to his boss.”
“Muttering about what?”
“Look, I don’t run around asking them, but basically he’s not lifting his load and doing his share when asked, doesn’t show up at the team meetings, or when he does has nothing to offer or say, disappears suddenly and no one hears from him. Always has an excuse and answer, things like that.”
“Understood, and not good. The way you’re talking it sounds like it’s crisis mode, do or die. Is it that bad already, or does he just need to be sat down with and told to shape up. Management 101. Am I missing something?”
“Maybe, maybe not. He’s a hard one to pin down, always has been, and the chatter has increased, if you get my drift. If you asked me on his reputation, I’d say it in one word: ‘Unreliable’. Actually, I can think of three easy things he could do to improve his reputation–I’ve watched him long enough.”
“And the three things are…?”
“He speaks too loudly. It’s Asia, and he needs to moderate his voice, it drives us all nuts. Second, he just needs to show up more often when he’s supposed to show up. Third, when he does, he needs to be prepared and contribute more. Honestly, that would be plenty.”
“Sounds easy enough to me.”
“Sounds easy, but I doubt he’ll do any of it.”
“Do you think he has any idea that his reputation is in such bad shape or know what his boss is doing?”
“No, I honestly don’t think he knows. Or he doesn’t want to know.”
How many of us actually and truly know our [internal] reputation? We can point to everyone else and easily say what they’re like, but when asked about our own reputation, a blank look and shrug is usually the response-along with a mild “I’m pretty well liked and work hard” reply.
If our friend really knew that the guns were out and pointing at him, he’d react differently. My guess is that he has a vague notion that his boss is not happy with him, but that it will all somehow work out, and avoids asking others what he should do to salvage his reputation.
He may be cordial with his boss, but not interested in developing his relationship, and his reputation. His lack of interest in changing his reputation may bite him sooner than he thinks.
Know your reputation, as best as you can determine from others. Most will give guidance if asked, and most will give candid but helpful appraisals if asked. Never assume you’re universally loved. None of us are, but you can improve your standing by knowing what’s being said about you. That’s how you grow.
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