Reputation is the intangible ways in which we connect with others. This is where activities and behaviors that help you be known in your organization and industry exist. I like to think of reputation as the echo you leave when you exit a room. Your reputation is what your colleagues say about you when you are not there. Perhaps your colleagues are commenting on a presentation you just gave, or an interaction you just had, or your candidacy for a promotion. Do you know what they are saying about you? More importantly, what do you want your colleagues to be saying about you?
The global workplace is full of office “tyrants.” These troublesome creatures are very visible in their environments, just not in a good way. To survive in their fast-paced and ever-changing organizations, office tyrants feed on negative and energy draining behavior. They create havoc while performing their job responsibilities, cause controversy on every project, and cauterize relationships in ways that impede progress. A visitor to an environment that houses an office tyrant can easily tell when office tyrants are approaching simply by watching the behavior of the office tyrant’s colleagues. Their eyes roll, their bodies stiffen, and they will often scatter for the nearest water cooler or stairwell. Most troubling for office tyrants looking to create their next controversy is the fact that colleagues they have yet to meet are aware of their disruptive and unproductive behavior even before meeting them. As another successful day of bad behavior comes to a close, the office tyrants withdraw, only to return the next day to feed again. Can you think of any office tyrants in your organization? Do you know your reputation at work? Could you be an office tyrant?
Individuals successful in building a good reputation are regarded in positive ways. Your colleagues with great reputations are not only known in positive ways by colleagues with whom they have met and collaborated, they are similarly known to colleagues whom they have yet to meet. The old adage, “your reputation precedes you,” continues to exist due to individuals who are very successful in managing their reputation in their organization and industry.
Presence is the tangible ways in which you connect with others. This is the place where activities and behaviors that help you be seen in your organization and industry exist. When you work to build your presence, you are seeking physical ways to connect with others and contribute to your organization and industry. You cannot be visible is you are not seen by others!
In your busy work environment, it is easy to become an office “hermit.” Thousands of office hermits are spotted in corporations around the globe on a daily basis. These surreptitious creatures quietly enter their offices as dawn breaks to ensure they do not have to interact with others. While hermits’ office doors are closed for most of the workday, passersby can hear the occasional sound of keys clicking on a keyboard or muffled voices on a conference call. As the sun reaches its peak, office hermits quickly dart from the confines of their offices to seek out food in a variety of places – perhaps the employee cafeteria or a local fast food restaurant. Whatever the choice, they have to be quick, as office hermits must return to their place of safety and solitude – their office – before they are seen by or have to interact with others. As the day plods on, key clicking and voice muffling continues. Then, just as at dawn, office hermits will quickly exit the building at dusk, slithering down hallways, scrunching themselves into the corners of elevators, and, with speed that would impress a jaguar on the Serengeti, exit for the day. And, as dawn arises the following day, the cycle continues. Can you think of any office hermits at your place of work? Are you yourself an office hermit?
Individuals successful in building their presence seize opportunities to be seen at work by “picking up their heads,” getting out of their offices, and building relationships across functional areas. They identify opportunities to be seen in different ways (i.e., subject matter expert, team member, cross-functional contributor). They interact, participate, and engage with others.
It is important to recognize that visibility and value are deeply symbiotic in your organization and industry. You already know that professional risks exist for busy business professionals who are invisible or undervalued in their organization. You do not want to be visible without providing value, and it is hard to demonstrate the value that you provide if you are invisible.
Low Value + Low Visibility. You are at a high risk level when a headcount reduction or departmental realignment occurs. The only reason you might survive is that no one knows what you do or where to find you!
Low Value + High Visibility. You are at a very high risk level, as you are providing little value and everyone knows it. How have you survived this far?
High Value + Low Visibility. You are at a moderate risk level, as the value you are providing exists – decision makers just don’t know who you are.
High Value + High Visibility. You are at a low risk level, as you are providing value to, and are visible in, your organization and industry. While no one can guarantee you employment or a promotion, you are reducing the likelihood of unexpectedly losing your job or missing a promotion.