Rule number 1: Don’t piss anybody off. Rule number 2: Don’t piss anybody off!
Schmoozing, rubbing elbows, word-of-mouth, networking, whatever you call it, part of your career involves interacting with other people who work in your industry (and sometimes even outside of it). Generally being nice when building these relationships will make your working life easier and more pleasant. Occasionally you will meet people you don’t like. Occasionally you will meet people who give you the distinct impression that they do not like you. Get over it. Just. Be. Nice. To. Everyone. It really is best to avoid getting a bad reputation.
Joan Jett – Bad Reputation. It is advisable to enjoy the reckless sentiment of this song without applying the message to your own business life
As a new member of the business world you will be building your own reputation: in your workplace, online, face-to-face, at events and even through introductions from within your existing social circle. The importance of interacting with people and forming positive relationships is exemplified by the many businesses that exist purely as conduits for business relationships. One such organisation, Melbourne Business Network says ever so aptly on their website, “Let’s face it: we’re social creatures and since time immemorial, humanity has always thrived on the strength and quality of relationships.” It’s true.
- The estimation in which a person or thing is held, especially by the community or the public generally; repute: a man of good reputation.
- Favorable repute; good name: to ruin one’s reputation by misconduct.
- A favorable and publicly recognized name or standing for merit, achievement,reliability, etc.: to build up a reputation.
- The estimation or name of being, having, having done, etc., something specified: He has the reputation of being a shrewd businessman.
Think about it in terms of social media. Want to get a recommendation on a restaurant, movie or travel destination? Visit Urbanspoon, Rotten Tomatoes, TripAdvisor or their equivalents and you can see what’s good, and more importantly what’s bad. The same applies to people. Aside from the obvious forums like Facebook and LinkedIn, people talk. ‘It’s not what you know it’s who you know’, ‘Good news travels fast but bad news travels faster’, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all’ and even ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ – there are countless sayings in various forms that all point to the same salient point: play nice.
Of course there are anomalies in the business world. You know the kind. The boss that flips out every couple of weeks and delivers a verbal lashing to their employees. This is indulgent and ridiculous. Instilling fear is such a flawed way to interact with people in a professional environment and you might even wind up being publicly defamed for it. Inspiring confidence and commitment is far superior. Besides, in the beginning of your career it would be rare for you to act this way and get away with it.
David Brent has a questionable working style
Behaving badly towards people you work with is just bad business. The Journal Of Business Ethics concedes that “reputation is one of the main business assets responsible for sustained financial outcomes,” (de Castro, Lopez & Saez 2006, Business and Social Reputation: Exploring the Concept and Main Dimensions of Corporate Reputation). In other words, it is part of surviving and making money in the business world. Australian company Business Network International is another business referral organisation that provides opportunities for paying members to network. BNI claims that their members in Australia reported that these business referrals generated more than $230 million of business last year. So meeting people, being nice and working with them is not only a good idea for your personal professional development, it is one of the biggest drivers of the way people conduct their business.
Shake hands and play nice
So business relationships are not only key factors behind success, bad relationships, i.e. annoying someone, can come back to bite you ten fold. Take for example an Australian expat who spent years growing a business showing Australian tourists around in Italy, only to be taken down by a revengeful ex-employee who proliferated bad reviews on Trip Advisor as reported in The Age article Bad reputation: blackmail, corruption plague online reviews. The same article reports that “Nielsen Research has estimated that 71 per cent of Australians base their purchasing decisions on User Generated Content reviews that appear on sites such as TripAdvisor”.
A bad review or reference may cripple the future of your career
So it seems there is a general consensus that you should conduct yourself in a way that fosters positive relationships. You never know when your name will come up and when it does you have hopefully done you darnedest to make sure it is for all the right reasons.