Was last year a bad year for your credibility rating? If you’re honest, you might have to admit to a slipup or two, maybe not on par with the most notorious celebrities and politicians, but bad enough
Perhaps you were late more times than you would like to admit, missed several deadlines, and told a few white lies to staff members. There may even have been a couple of bigger transgressions: like promising to increase staff benefits and then your local government’s expenses coming in way over budget and not being able to provide them.
Now, you’re dealing with the fallout. You have a sneaking suspicion that your fellow employees are not happy with you. Is it too late to redeem yourself? Chances are you haven’t hit the credibility point of no return just yet, but salvaging your image requires making an effort to be more accountable.
When your credibility has taken a hit, you have to understand that it’s not just your pride and reputation that are suffering—you have disappointed or hurt other people in a tangible way. So while a sincere apology for your behavior is the first step, it’s certainly not the last one.
Moving forward, you will need to show others through your behavior that they really can depend on you, and that you won’t drop that particular ball again.
Here are 10 rules to help you repair your credibility after it has taken a hit:
1. Cop to it when you screw up. It’s only human nature to make excuses when things go wrong. How often have you said, “It wasn’t my fault,” or worse, “It was his/her/their fault, not mine,” when you knew perfectly well that the blame should be placed at your feet?
It’s always best to “fess up” as soon as possible and take the heat, because the truth almost always comes out, and the impact is worse than it would have been if you had owned up to it in the first place. Plus, the way you handle your screwups defines the kind of person you really are. Are you credible, or are you a lying weasel?
Proactively address your screwups with elected officials and coworkers. Let them know that you’ve seen the error of your ways and that you will be changing your behavior. It won’t be easy—fessing up never is. But they’ll respect you for acknowledging your faults, and that respect will increase as you boost your credibility with your improved behavior.
2. Always do what you say you’ll do. Doesn’t it make you crazy when someone says, “I’ll get back to you tomorrow on that,” and days later you haven’t heard a word? Or, “We’ll make sure you get it on Monday,” and nothing happens?
Don’t be that person. If you make a commitment to do something, move heaven and earth to do it, or if you can’t—because of circumstances beyond your control—let people know immediately, with a plan to fix it. You’ll find that generally others will understand when you give them legitimate advance notice.
3. Tell the truth. Remember those little white lies you told to get out of a commitment (“That e-mail must have gotten lost in my spam folder!”) or those misleading statements you made that contained enough truth to sound legitimate?
Do that too often, and you’ll become known as someone whose word isn’t worth much. Telling the truth can be hard, but it’s always worth it in the long haul.
4. Speak up when you see something wrong. Remember that time when one of the staff was throwing his weight around and bullying an employee? Not wanting to get involved in the drama, you took the “none of my business” approach to dealing with the problem. You chose not to speak up about the bad behavior to keep yourself out of the line of fire.
Here’s a reality check. Ignoring someone else’s bad behavior is just as bad as committing the act yourself. When people see you ignoring these problems, especially when you’re in a position to do something about them, they think you’re approving the bad behavior. They assume you’re the same kind of person as that person yelling at employees. Don’t be guilty by association. Speak up and show that you value fairness and respect.
5. Give constructive feedback (and do it thoughtfully). Most people don’t like giving feedback and like getting it even less. That’s because feedback usually involves suggestions for improvement, which is why it’s important to give helpful feedback and to do so in a way that won’t offend the recipient.
When you decide that feedback is required, give it some thought and plan what you’re going to say. Don’t just blurt out your spur-of-the-moment thoughts. Chances are, you’ll make a mess of them. You may even come off as superior or hostile.
Instead, choose a time and place when the recipient will be most receptive. By showing that you truly care about the other person’s feelings and performance, you’ll reinforce your credibility as a coworker, supervisor, friend, or mentor.
6. When you’re on the receiving end, accept feedback gracefully. Hopefully, if someone has chosen to give yousome feedback, it’s the product of a lot of thought and is meant to make you better.
Feedback should be considered a gift. Treat it that way—even if the person delivering it isn’t as gentle as you would prefer. Pay attention, learn, and improve your performance going forward. A willingness to accept and incorporate feedback also helps your credibility, because it shows that you put your work, not your pride, first.
7. Be respectful. No matter how many other things you get right, if you’re a total jerk, people aren’t going to think highly of you. You might be having a bad day, but that doesn’t give you the right to lash out at someone.
Turn the scenario around whenever you’re tempted to be curt, condescending, or nasty. If you are the person trying to get service—for example, from a bank teller or grocery store cashier—you’d dread dealing with them if they dumped their frustrations on you. Yes, being respectful can sometimes require effort and restraint. But it costs nothing, helps maintain and build relationships, and makes you a better person.
8. Say yes only when you mean yes. There are a lot of reasons why you might say yes to another person’s request when you truly don’t feel comfortable doing so. Maybe you’re a “pleaser” who hates disappointing others. Perhaps you want to avoid conflict. Or maybe you simply want to shut down an interaction that’s dragging on and on.
Whatever your reasons, ‘yes’ doesn’t ultimately work unless you mean it. You’ll either have to perform a task you don’t believe in or don’t want to do (which is bad), or you’ll have to break your word (which is worse). Say yes only when you mean it. Even if others don’t like hearing ‘no,’ your credibility will stay intact.
9. Over-commit and over-deliver. The world is full of people who want to do only the bare minimum. When you push yourself to commit to just a little bit extra, then make sure you get it done, you set yourself apart in the best possible way.
Take the opportunity to differentiate yourself, even if it means staying at work a bit later or learning a new skill. Pretty soon, you’ll have a reputation for being someone to rely on, someone who’s good to have around.
10. Be punctual. Sure, there are legitimate reasons why even the most responsible person might be running late: a fender bender, a sick child, or an unfortunate coffee spill, to name just a few. And yes, everybody gets a pass on this one from time to time when life’s curveballs happen.
But, generally, being late—especially if it’s a habit—is disrespectful. It communicates that you don’t value others’ time, and that you think you’re more important than they are. On the other hand, being on time just takes a little effort and a little planning, but will garner a lot of respect and appreciation.
Focus on these 10 rules even if your credibility is doing fine, but especially if it isn’t. Soon, you’ll differentiate yourself from the credibility-optional pack and be the person with whom others want to work.