• Wed, Oct 12 2011

Should You Try To Change A Bad Reputation Or Embrace It Like Anna Wintour?

Designer Jean Paul Gautier told The Independent this week that he didn’t care for the film The Devil Wears Prada because “Anna Wintour is a lot more monstrous than she is described!” When the reporter asked if he thinks Wintour is a “positive figure,” he merely responded, “She is a figure.” He then went on to defend his friend John Galliano, the designer who got fired from Christian Dior for getting drunk and saying anti-semitic slurs in public.

Oh Jean, don’t you know that nothing can tear down Anna Wintour? The woman has had what some may conceive as a negative reputation for over a decade and her career is thriving. It was way back in 1986 when she was head of British Vogue that she earned the nicknames Nuclear Wintour” and “Wintour of Our Discontent,” by industry insiders. But Anna didn’t mind. In fact, she embraced it. “I’m the Condé Nast hit man,” she told a friend. She even got on Hillary Clinton’s bad side when she told the world the Secretary of State refused to appear on the cover of Vogue. And when The September Issue she could have tried to act not like herself or a better version of herself but her icy coolness radiated on screen (and was highly entertaining.) So a small comment from Jean Paul Gautier, especially when he then went on to defend John Galliano, is not going to make a dent in Anna Wintour’s busy day.

Anna Wintour has chosen to embrace her reputation because it may have some negative connotations but it is also is very powerful. But for those of us who aren’t public figures, reputation in our careers is extremely important but in a different way. The public may find Anna Wintour fascinating but as we all know her employees at Vogue, at least some of them, have more negative feelings. If you are not satisfied with how your co-workers or employees under you perceive your reputation then there are things you can do to try to change it, unless you have the willpower of Anna Wintour, which most people don’t.

We use our reputations to establish ourselves. Your reputation is the filter through which people hear your words, interpret your actions, and respond to your requests. Depending on what kind of reputation you have, accomplishing things may be easier or more difficult. If you aren’t satisfied with your reputation in your workplace, here are a few things you can do to try to change it, according to Kimberly Paterson, a Business and Certified Energy Leadership Coach.

  1. Be clear about the reputation you want: Let that reputation govern your priorities, actions and decisions.
  2. Be consistent in how you present yourself: People value consistency and dependability in their leaders. When you are inconsistent in how you present yourself, people get confused. The reputation you are trying to build gets muddled by conflicting evidence.
  3.  Be repetitive: Our brains are trained to notice repeat behaviors. Do something once that builds the reputation you want to create, and you plant a seed. Keep repeating the behavior, and the seed begins to take hold.
  4. Be proactive in drawing attention to changes you’re making. People filter everything about you through their precon­ceptions, and they constantly look for evidence that confirms them.
  5. Be patient: Despite what we might feel at the time, reputations aren’t made or lost in a single event. A reputation is formed over months or years, and it takes equally long to change it. If you have a reputation for losing your temper when someone makes a mistake, it will take months of holding your tongue before people notice it.
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