Success in business and life is heavily dependent on your reputation (Zinko & Rubin, 2015). Not only is your reputation firmly linked to career advancement, but your professional influence and independence as well. Given its’ importance, understanding how to establish and sustain a success-boosting reputation is essential for maximizing your potential and performance.

Definition.  Simply put, your reputation is how others perceive you.  It is an identity shaped by the collective perceptions of others.  It reflects how others perceive your personal traits, accomplishments, behavior, and the images you project over time.  Your reputation is forged in what others observe directly and what they hear from others. Thus, your reputation grows from the personal characteristics you display and the competencies you demonstrate.

Development.  A reputation is built along two lines: a) level, and b) frequency of deviation from the norms and standards of a society or organization.  People deviate from accepted standards by consistently rising above or falling short of expectations (i.e., the level of your performance is perceived by others as consistently high, low or average).  When someone frequently performs at a level above the standards in a particular way, they gain a reputation for excelling in that area (e.g., consistently finishing work with superior results leads to a reputation of a high performer).  When they frequently fall short of those standards, they gain the reputation for being derelict in that area (e.g., consistently late for work, and often leaving early with subpar work results gains one a reputation as a slacker).

Reputation Influencers.  Building and maintaining a success-fueling reputation depends on three factors: a) personal characteristics, b) interested others, and c) others desiring to “promote” your reputation (Zinko & Rubin, 2015) . Personal characteristics include both personality traits as well as unique skills or expertise needed for the success of the organizations.  You create value for yourself within the organization by gaining meaningful knowledge, skills, and credentials through education and demonstrated achievements. Your reputation spreads through an organization because others find your deviations from the norms (positive or negative) interesting to discuss.  For a reputation to rise, a general agreement needs to be reached by others.  Finally, those who are associated with you may find it in their best interest to promote you and your deviations from the norm.  These people bask in reflected glory by displaying or accentuating their association with your success or vaulted status. Consequently, those in your network may be used as a promotional resource to boost your reputation.

Reputation Repair.  If your actions do not consistently meet the expectations of an organization or a single negative action is grossly out of proportion to accepted norms and standards, your reputation will be damaged. The more ways you negatively deviate from the norms in other areas (e .g ., language, dress, habits), the harder the hit your reputation will take. Therefore, when repairing a reputation, make several large changes at once to realign with the cultural standards to minimize damage and shorten redemption time.

The reputation you gain is largely the result of your efforts.  Take care to build and maintain a reputation that will bring you success and satisfaction in your life.  As Socrates suggested “the way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”


Zinko, R ., & Rubin, M . (2015) . Personal reputation and the organization . Journal of Management & Organization, 21, 1–20 .