In today’s organizational hierarchies, navigating the right way, and with the right image, requires some deep thinking. How to Sell Yourself by finance guru Ray Grose shows you how to design and project the right image to achieve success, get promoted and enhance your image, and warns you of behaviour that might tarnish your reputation. Edited excerpts from a chapter titled Damaging your “Good” Image.
Obviously, executives concerned with selling themselves by developing and maintaining their “good” image should not behave in a way that will detract from it. There are some recognized “Don’ts and Dos” that must be avoided. Each executive must learn to recognize what type of behaviour is unacceptable and then energetically guard against it. Below are many examples of inappropriate behaviour.
Be correct: Don’t pull up people in public
Discussing third parties critically
You must assume that anything you say which is derogatory of a third party will get back to them. The person to whom you impart, in confidence, evaluations of others may not be as cautious as you are. Circumstances may occur when, unintentionally, they pass on your judgments. These will eventually get back to the third party and, as a consequence, probably bring you a great deal of grief. There is also the possibility that this person you confide in will not be so friendly to you in the future and could use the information against you.
Even if the information never gets back to the third party, you would still have damaged your image with the person in whom you have confided. They will have in the back of their minds that if you are prepared to discuss third parties with them, then you may also be willing, at some time, to discuss them behind their own backs. It is better for your image never to say anything about others unless it is complimentary.
Correcting team members publicly
A serious example of disrespect is correcting people who work for you where others can see or hear the interaction. Even correcting people for very minor things can be enormously embarrassing and belittling for the corrected person if third parties overhear. It does not help to do it in a jovial style. It can still be hurtful even if the subject goes along with the way the correction is delivered.
Using profane or coarse language
Some people can be offended by cursing or foul language, even if they don’t show it. Even people who use such language with their peers may find your use of such language to be disrespectful to them if you are their team member or their superior.
Others may be offended because your use of such language shows that you may expect them not to be offended. Even if they might not find the actual language offensive they might find your expectation about their response presumptuous. Since such language can damage your image, and because there is no need for an articulate person to use it, avoid it.
Flirting is part of daily social intercourse. It can be frivolous and flattering and quite acceptable in most social settings. The problem with such behaviour within a hierarchical organization is that, even when meant playfully, it can easily be interpreted as more than harmless fun.
Behind all interactions between people who are on different levels of the hierarchy is the question of power. Those on higher levels have more power; those on lower levels understand that. Power is valid. It is a way of controlling behaviour and getting things done. Power can be used overtly, eg, in giving explicit directions, or it may be used subtly by making suggestions, eg, “Do you think it might be a good idea if this were to happen?” However, it is always a feature of interactions between people on different levels. The nature of flirting is to suggest more intimate contact. If someone on a higher level flirts with someone on a lower level, the interaction may be seen to include a subtle expression of power, even if this is not intended. If the person feels that power is being exercised when they are being flirted with, and they may readily do so, they will see that use of power as illegitimate and inappropriate, and could deeply resent it being exercised on them in that way.
If someone on a lower level flirts with someone on a higher level, the person on the higher level may feel that their position of authority is being ridiculed and feel insulted.
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