High-achievers can be pretty intense at work, which sometimes leads to a negative reputation around the office. If you think you're getting a bad rap (or maybe even deserve it), here are a few tips to help you turn that bad rep around and win the respect of your colleagues.
1. Talk less, listen more. People like to be heard, even if their ideas are not ultimately followed. When you're interested in what coworkers have to say and you hear their concerns, they're more likely to feel appreciated. That usually translates into coworkers not only feeling good about themselves, but also feeling positive about you.
2. Show respect. Remember your parents telling you to treat others the way you would like to be treated? This sage advice doesn't just apply to family and friends; it applies to coworkers, too. Simple politeness, such as saying "please" and "thank you," and giving coworkers credit when credit is due, can go a long way in repairing a negative office reputation.
3. Be reasonable. Not everyone is a high-achiever. Not everyone tackles challenges like you do. Not everyone works at the same pace as you do. In fact, one of the biggest causes of stress and frustration among high-achievers is that their expectations of others are often unrealistic. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Work with a coworker's strengths and work around her or his weaknesses, and both of you should be a lot happier.
4. Be discreet. Gossiping and sharing secrets can put you on the fast track to a bad office reputation. If a coworker shares a confidence with you, respect that confidence and keep it to yourself. And as tempting as it sometimes is, don't participate in office gossip and certainly don't spread it. If you like soap operas, tape them and watch them at home; don't fuel, or worse, create them at your workplace.
5. Be positive. It's hard to like someone who is mostly or always negative. No one is perfect. You will almost always be able to find something wrong with something someone has done or an idea someone has. But why? Focus on resolving the problem rather than assigning blame. This doesn't mean you have to be a pushover. It also doesn't mean you should put your head in the sand or ignore mistakes. It simply means that there are more productive ways to resolve problems than being negative and critical.
These five tips may seem easy, but they actually take practice. It's very easy to get drawn into juicy office gossip, or to fall prey to the negativity trap. But with persistence and practice, like anything else, these attitudes and actions will eventually become second nature. One word of caution, though ... don't expect your bad rep to change overnight. Just as your negative reputation probably didn't develop overnight, it's not likely to change that quickly either. But if you stay focused and stay positive, you should begin to see gradual improvements.
For more information about office reputations, check out fellow Psychology Today blogger Alex Lickerman's post, The Value of a Good Reputation.
© 2011 Sherrie Bourg Carter, All Rights Reserved
Dr. Bourg Carter is the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout (2011, Prometheus Books).