Positive Reputation: The best way to look at your reputation is as if it is your shadow: you simply cannot get away from it. However, unlike a shadow, a reputation can actually hurt you, so it is very important that you understand what it is, and how you can improve it. There have been numerous studies about the importance of online reputation, and you simply cannot get away from it anymore.
The Importance of a Positive Reputation
When we think of reputation, we tend to think about individuals (also known as “street cred”) and businesses. However, it actually affects everything, even sports! This was demonstrated by a 2014 study by Braden King and Jerry Kim, from Northwestern University and Columbia University, respectively.
“This paper tests the assumption that actors’ status biases evaluators’ judgments made about those actors’ quality. Using unique data from Major League Baseball umpires’ evaluation of pitch quality, which allow us to observe the difference in a pitch’s objective quality and in its perceived quality as judged by the umpire, we show that umpires are more likely to over-recognize quality in high status pitchers and underrecognize quality in low status pitchers.”
What this demonstrates is that reputation affects every aspect of life, and that it often does so subconsciously. The umpires in the above study, for instance, genuinely believed that they made the right calls. Yet it seemed that they did still favor those players with better reputation.
Different Factors Influence Reputation & Positive Reputation
The next thing to consider is that there are many different factors that will influence reputation. One important factor is the factor of association, something that has been an issue since biblical times: someone’s reputation would be determined by who their parents were. This still happens today, in fact. Often, parents will not like their children having certain friends because of the parents of the latter, for instance. There is a huge variety of factors that can influence your reputation, both personally and professionally.
“Typically, in the workplace we care how key individual performers, managers, executives, change agents and management’s favorites behave. If you are under the microscope, every misstep will be magnified and discussed.”
There is another issue as well, which is the one about how concerned you need to be about our reputation. It is about finding a balance. Presuming that you are a solid company or individual, with nothing to be ashamed of, you may come across as slightly suspect if you engage in an aggressive reputation management campaign. Interestingly, this is also something that has been with us since the beginning of times, and perhaps best worded by philosopher Marcus Aurelius:
“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others. If then a god or a wise teacher should present himself to a man and bid him to think of nothing and to design nothing which he would not express as soon as he conceived it, he could not endure it even for a single day. So much more respect have we to what our neighbors shall think of us than to what we shall think of ourselves.”
So does your reputation really matter?
Absolutely. Countless pieces of research have demonstrated this, in fact. But you also need to be careful about not overdoing it, and making people suspicious about your motives. It is a complex field to navigate, particularly when you understand just how important it actually is. This is why it is also best to leave reputation management to the professionals.