CareerBuilder Menu Search Search

5 Ways to Tarnish Your Professional Rep

Robert Half International

  • Email

Without a doubt, getting ahead in your career has much to do with your skills and on-the-job contributions. But a lot also depends on how you are perceived by your colleagues and managers. The impressions you make with others can greatly affect your advancement potential. Are you taking the right steps, or are you inadvertently sabotaging yourself?

Here are five ways to jeopardize your professional reputation -- and career prospects:

1.      Not raising your hand.
A colleague needs someone to take on a few of his duties while he's out of the office next week, and the boss asks everyone on the team for volunteers. You sit quietly until a co-worker offers to help out. Bad move. Taking on projects that fall outside your normal responsibilities can help you expand your skill set and explore new avenues for professional growth. While you may not always have the time to volunteer for an extra assignment, passing on every opportunity also will prevent you from being viewed by your manager as a go-to person in the deparment.

2.      Overpromising.
You may be the hardest worker in the company, but if your boss and co-workers cannot rely on you to deliver results you've committed to, you may be passed over for plum assignments. Avoid the urge to promise more than you can realistically deliver, and let people know when you hit a snag that could prevent you from meeting your deadlines. You won't acquire more responsibility if people can't depend on you.

3.      Being a know-it-all.
It's smart to offer feedback during brainstorming sessions and to colleagues who are stuck on challenging projects. But keep in mind that there can be too much of a good thing. If you are blunt or forceful with your opinions, it can seem like you are giving orders and not offering suggestions, and consequently lead to resentment among your colleagues. This attitude can be especially harmful during group projects, when effective collaboration is key. Be tactful when presenting your thoughts and respect others' right to disagree, no matter how strongly you feel about your ideas. Co-workers will appreciate your feedback and desire to help, even if they don't follow your guidance.

4.      Never admitting your mistakes.
Creating an excuse to justify poor performance is dishonest and unprofessional. Plus, chances are your ploy won't stand the test of time. If you make a mistake, step up to the plate; then go further by devising a plan for both correcting and avoiding similar incidents in the future. Employees who accept ownership demonstrate professional maturity and confidence.

5.      Being part of the rumor mill.
When there's bad news to share or complaints to be made about situations at work, you don't want to be the person leading the talk at the water cooler. There's nothing wrong with bonding with co-workers, but being associated with negative discussions makes you seem negative -- which won't please managers and can harm relationships at work. It's best to remain above the fray as much as possible.

A major snafu at work isn't the only thing that can harm a promising career. Sometimes it takes just one minor misstep. Make sure your own actions aren't derailing new opportunities from coming your way.

Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices throughout North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. For more information about our professional services, please visit

Last Updated: 09/07/2008 - 2:02 PM

Article Reprints
Permission must be obtained from to reprint any of its articles. Please send a request to