TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Ways to Completely Destroy Your Reputation at Work

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Cultura RM/Jason Butcher—Getty Images/Collection Mix: Subjects RM

Here are three sure-fire methods to get a bad reputation at work


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

In business, it’s easy to forgive an oversight. We all make mistakes, and few of us possess a perfect ability to complete every project on time and on budget.

You might hear some grumbling around the office about that presentation you made last month, the one where you had the sales forecast numbers mixed up with the expenditures, but most of your co-workers will forget all about it.

But what if you really screw up? In a few cases, you can create a reputation for yourself that fosters a negative vibe in the office–or even earns you a pink slip. It can be hard to recover from that. Here are the recipes for total disaster–a way to create a lasting reputation. Avoid them if you can.

1. Take credit for someone else’s work

Nothing gives you the mark of a scoundrel like taking credit for something you don’t deserve. People get fired over lesser evils. The best way to avoid earning a reputation as a credit-stealer is to carefully analyze the success. What role did you really play? Should you take credit for the pre-sales work only? Is it enough to let everyone in the office know you are happy with the overall outcome? Here’s the secret: Don’t even bother taking the credit in the first place. When you make a big sales win for the company or score that investment from a big shot across town, let the work speak for itself.

2. Cover up an error

I know someone who was fired for one infraction related to a cover-up. Call it the Lance Armstrong mistake. It was in a small business and the person made a pretty big mistake on a customer order, then tried to hide it by deleting some e-mails, lying to everyone in the office, and stuffing some paperwork in a drawer. What that person didn’t realize is that the truth always finds you. The more you’ve done to hide a mistake, the more you will be despised. The alternative? Fess up right away. The sooner you come clean about losing a signed contract or getting into a fight with a competitor, the more time everyone has to deal with the problem and take corrective action. Let the mistake stay hidden and you are setting off a time bomb. When people find out, your reputation will suffer.

3. Let your tasks slide routinely

Having a bad day is one thing. Maybe it’s an expense report you need to fill out or a summary of that last sales demo you were supposed to send in to the team. Fine. In a work setting, no one is really expecting you to be perfect and complete every task on time. The problem starts when you earn a reputation for not completing tasks because then you are making everyone in the office look bad. Slowing down one project is a problem for that specific project and your reputation will likely recover; not completing tasks on any project is going to make it seem like you can’t get anything done. The ultimate solution? If you screw up on a few tasks, work extra hard to compensate on the next project. You’ll be surprised how forgiving people can be if you start finishing up your work early.

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TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Words People Who Lack Confidence Always Use

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A.L. Christensen / Getty Images / Flickr Open

Want to avoid giving the impression you lack confidence and authority? Avoid these words


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Nine-hundred and seventy-two.

That’s the total number of e-mails I received just in May, and it’s about my average. That’s not counting the hundreds and hundreds of messages Gmail dumped into categories for promotional mail, forum posts, and social networking updates. I’ve become proficient at jumping through messages quickly (using the J and K keys), but there’s one thing I’ve mastered even more than that: spotting a lack of confidence.

I also take quite a few cold calls–people who are not really sure what I do and have not really done too much research but have me on a phone list for some reason.

In most cases, it’s a pitch about a product or someone asking a question about marketing to journalists. He or she might say he or she “usually” does something. In a few cases, it’s someone with a business idea he or she “suspects” will be perfect. Most of the time, these messages are straightforward–the sender isn’t messing around. But a few seem hesitant. I fire back a question, and the response makes me question the person’s authority on the subject.

These words are not always triggers about confidence level, but they are my first signal that something is amiss. They make me think the sender is not that sure about the product or service. And they are dead giveaways that I need to question what the person says.

1. Might

Be careful when you tell people you “might” do something. Are you sure about that? No one is asking you to solve world peace. When you say you “might” finish a report, it implies you lack some ability, don’t manage your time well, or have too many priorities.

2. Won’t

Here’s an obvious word to avoid in your emails. Anyone who says he or she “won’t” do something or “won’t” attend a meeting is generating a negative vibe. Be more decisive: Either accept an invitation or reject it; using the word won’t suggests hesitancy.

3. Usually

This is a trigger word in email that makes it obvious to everyone that you don’t have all the facts. If you say the accounting department “usually” doesn’t approve your expense report or the boss is “usually” late to work, it means you’re stretching the truth.

4. Suspect

Unless you are talking about a suspect in a trial, avoid saying you “suspect” anything. You’re not Sherlock Holmes. Just use direct terms: You know an investor is pulling out of the project, and here’s why; or you have facts to support your conclusion on a new marketing plan.

5. Impossible

I’ll bet Mark Zuckerberg has never used the word impossible in an email. The recipient will lose confidence in you quickly. State why something might be hard or difficult or just don’t agree to a course of action. Don’t bother telling people it’s impossible.

6. Worried

We all worry about the stresses of life. Telling people you are worried by email makes it seem as if you lack confidence in your abilities. If you are worried, don’t bother saying that to anyone–just express what you are concerned about and offer solutions.

7. Confused

Expressing your confusion will create even more confusion. It’s better to just say what you are confused about and ask questions. Saying you are “confused” gives people the impression that either you don’t understand something or that the topic is confusing to you.

8. Need

We all have needs in life. When you express those needs by email over and over again, it makes you look needy. I “need” you to come to work early, I “need” you to get that report done. Avoid saying “need” and express requirements more directly.

9. Quandary

Have you sent a message and said you were in a “quandary”? You should know that the word means you are in a total state of perplexity. I mean, you are really perplexed. That’s not often the case when it comes to a new business proposal or fundraising round.

10. Likely

Few of us are in the business of predicting the future. If you say something is “likely” in an email, you are expressing to the recipient that you are not really sure about the topic, and you don’t have all the facts yet. It’s likely that you just lack confidence.

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TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Simple Ways to Make People Like You More

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AFROG DESIGN UNIT—Getty Images/Flickr Select


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published atInc.com.

Have you noticed there are people who always seem to be more likable?

In a recent episode of the new ABC drama Mind Games, one of the characters mentions an interesting personality trait that defines the most popular people: they more readily admit their weaknesses rather than waiting for them to be revealed over time. The show is about using cunning tricks to manipulate others and ensure a positive outcome, so it’s a bit ridiculous, but there’s truth in the observation.

In the office, it’s possible to exhibit traits that help you to be more likable. In my years as a corporate manager and developing my writing career, I’ve noticed when people appear more likable and I’ve tried to develop these traits myself. Here’s a few to cultivate.

1. Ask questions.
I’ve noticed people who ask questions are often well-liked. It’s human nature to be helpful and we all have a great desire to share what we know. When someone appears to need our help, we tend to like them more because we like being the one who provides the answers.

2. Talk more, not less.
A friend of mine is a small business owner and he is extremely well liked. One of his strongest traits is that he tends to talk constantly. You never have to guess what he’s thinking. He’s not blunt or rude, but he explains things in detail. (Being an introvert, I need to develop this trait more in myself–and use texting and e-mail a little less often.)

3. Give your time…gratis.
A no-strings-attached approach to helping others also makes you more likable. Think of the person you like the most–usually, it’s someone who will help you with the copier machine or is willing to read through your business proposal in a pinch. Of course, those who help just to be liked always reveal a manipulative trait, so make sure you’re genuine.

4. Listen better.
I mentioned how talkers tend to be more likable, and that’s true. Sometimes, over-communicating puts people at ease. But it’s also important to pause once in a while and listen. Good communicators take a breath once in a while! Likable people are always listeners who are curious to (genuinely) learn new things. The best communicators talk and talk–and then listen for a response. That makes them an office favorite.

5. Really and truly care.
How do you develop the personality trait of caring? It can be difficult, especially in an age of social media where everyone is dangerously close to being a narcissist. Caring is an act of setting aside your own interests and ambitions for a while and helping others. It requires effort. You have to consciously decide you are going to care about someone else. When you do, and you are genuine about it, you’ll find that more people will like you.

6. Admit it, you don’t know everything.
We all know how important it is to steer clear of the office know-it-all. Why is that? Part of the reason is we know that person won’t ask for our help, and we like to be helpful. More importantly, those who have all of the answers are usually pushing their own agenda. In their conceited attitude, they exhibit a sense of pride that’s not attractive to anyone.

7. Go for the laugh, every time.
It’s hard to hate a jokester or someone who has a carefree approach to life. Usually, the most-liked people are those that can fill a room with laughter. It might not be in your nature to joke around, and that’s okay. Just make sure you are ready to see the humor in something. Be someone who can laugh easily and smile often. You’ll win people over.

8. Lighten up.
I will admit to struggling with this one. I’m a serious person with serious concerns! (Most of the time.) But it’s better to see the big picture in life. Really serious people are essentially acting selfish because they focus too much on their personal issues. Highly likable people at work are those who can set aside their concerns and go with the flow. They’re selfless.

9. Don’t be pushy.
Here’s an interesting one–and difficult trait to master. I went on a road trip with someone a few years ago, and I remember how he told me he doesn’t have highly distinct tastes. What does that really mean? For starters, he’s not that selfish and won’t push his preferences–he’ll go to lunch at any restaurant and listen to any form of music. He’s flexible. That makes him likable because he will adjust to the situation.

10. Admit your weaknesses.
That character on the show Mind Games is right: Admitting weaknesses makes you more likable. People figure them out on their own anyway. Of course, it’s important not to act like a victim or share your problems with everyone you meet. At work, it’s okay to go into a meeting and lead with the challenges you face. People are more likely to suggest a few solutions, come to your aid, and even pat you on the back.

Read more from Inc.com:
How 4 Entrepreneurs Started Up (Really) Young
Firing an Employee–Even a Bad One–Is Hard to Do

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