As an HR professional who has participated in quite a few recruitment & selection projects, I have lately started to wonder how employees and managers develop – often without any planned effort – their own reputation in organizations. I am not referring to reputations that depend on different opinions, views and other issues causing disagreements, and also not to performance problems.
Some of us have developed an excellent reputation, others a less admirable one, but (so it seems to me) the reputation and the true character of the person do not always match. And if a mismatch occurs, the case in which neither the person nor her/his employer wins is when someone has a reputation essentially worse than what s/he is like in reality.
In work communities, important sources of reputation can be found by observing how people behave and interact. Social skills are a valuable source of reputation-building and should never be under-estimated.
But what about a person’s relative difference from others or from the most frequent kinds of personalities in the organization? Does for instance a person with a strongly “academic” communication style have any chances for thriving in a manufacturing organization – or the frank and pragmatic production expert at the Research Lab? Does the extreme Extravert or the Extreme Introvert suffer from being such a rare and extreme type? Do people closer to the centre of any behavioural dimensions enjoy better reputations simply because they are closer to the majority of their colleagues?
Did you ever experience that your own reputation changed, when your environment or your own responsibilities changed? As this has probably happened to many, our reputations are context-dependent, not caused only by our own actions, even though they are important as well.
Reputation is related to success. This is evident at organization level; there is even an international consulting network, The Reputation Institute (see www.reputationinstitute.com), which wants to “advance knowledge about corporate reputations and help companies create economic value by implementing coherent reputing strategies”.
There is also plenty of more or less valuable self-help literature available on impression management and personal branding, for those of us who want to start a conscious improvement effort, but do we actually have valid, research-based knowledge on the formation process of personal reputations?