how to get a reputation for credibility

Being seen as highly credible is one of the most important types of capital you can build at work. It takes time to build it, and you can significantly undermine it by even a single bad move.

Here’s how to build unshakable credibility

1. Never, ever lie. Never.  Not only that, but go one step further and …

2. If you make a mistake that reflects poorly on you, tell your boss before she asks about it. People’s instinct is often to hide or soften this kind of thing, but in fact the more blunt you are, the better you will come across. Just say it: “I really screwed something up.” “I was completely wrong about this.” Explain what you did, why you were wrong, and what you propose doing about it now. This also works in retrospect:  “Do you remember how last month I argued for moving forward with that project when Bob insisted it was a bad idea? I was wrong. Here’s what I’ve realized since then.”  Not only is this incredibly refreshing, but it’s powerful because it instills in your boss the confidence that you will give her bad news directly — she doesn’t need to worry that she’ll only get negative information if she digs for it.

3. Don’t guess when you’re unsure. Guessing means that some of the time you’re giving out wrong information. Become known as the person whose information is always correct, and who just says so when she’s not sure about something.

4. Do what you say you’re going to do, by when you say you’re going to do it (or update people accordingly). This behavior is so uncommon that if you do it 100% consistently, you’ll become known for being reliable and keeping promises.

5. Don’t let your emotions color your judgment. Stay as calm, rational, and objective as you can, even when you’re frustrated or angry. For instance, say you have a difficult, irritating coworker who’s always making suggestions that leave you with more work. It’s easy to dismiss the suggestions as being bad or useless ideas, because you’re annoyed. But you’ll have more credibility if you assess the ideas honestly, acknowledging if they’re good, despite your aggravation. (And when you have credibility, you’re more likely to have it easily accepted when you do register an objection.)

These behaviors all tell people that you have integrity and that your priority is to be honest and objective, not to protect yourself or try to make yourself look good. And as a result, you’ll find that your opinion will be taken more seriously, you’ll get the benefit of the doubt in he-said/she-said situations, and often potentially contentious situations will go more smoothly.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 1 comment… read it below }

  1. Jason J Denis*

    Great advice Alison. Many of us know that lying is an unwise practic in life including the workplace. Taking that concept a "step further" as you put it to develop true credibility requires much more diligence and integrity. Of course, the positive impact of credibility and integrity on one's career and reputation are immeasurably.

    Thanks for a great article!

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