​Top 5 ways tech leaders can ruin their reputations

Love to gossip? Playing favorites? It's easy to tarnish your reputation if you are not careful.

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With the packed schedule, stressful environment, and never-ending responsibilities, it isn't easy being a project manager. The respect and trust that you've earned from your co-workers are well deserved. However, there are some things that can tarnish your stellar reputation as a leader.

Here are five things that you should file under "never do" if you want to maintain a solid work reputation.

SEE: How to build a successful project manager career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Displays of disrespect

It's par for the course for project managers to feel like they sit in a constant pressure cooker. Regardless of how stressful a situation is, you are a leader, and as such, you must remain calm. At no point is it acceptable to show outward displays of contempt, raise your voice, or treat others with disrespect.

This doesn't mean that you need to agree with everyone or that there shouldn't be push-back if need be, it simply means be respectful and mindful of the needs and feelings of the people around you. Being disrespectful can come at a high price to others and negatively impacts your reputation as a professional and a leader.

Here are just some signs of disrespect:

  • Disregarding or shutting down the opinions of others
  • Speaking with a condescending tone
  • Talking at someone instead of with them
  • Displaying closed off body language such as crossing your arms or rolling your eyes
  • Outwardly telling others that you know more than they do
  • Acting in a way that tells others you believe yourself to be superior

Of course, there are many other signs of disrespect. Be aware of how you might be treating others around you with signs of disrespect.

2. Hiding or stretching the truth

As a leader, you are responsible for providing transparency. This is sometimes easier said than done, especially when you share bad news with your team, a sponsor, or other leaders within an organization. No good comes from hiding or stretching the truth. In fact, it often makes things worse in the long run.

Instead, make sure you pass along information that might negatively impact the outcome of a project in a timely fashion. Usually, things can be resolved, or changes can be made to recover from a mistake if the information gets to the right recipients on time. Avoiding a difficult conversation seldom improves the situation. To maintain levels of trust and confidence, come prepared to talk about possible solutions. Stakeholders are far more likely to trust your decision-making abilities when you are transparent and timely.

SEE: Vendor relationship management checklist (Tech Pro Research)

3. Engaging in gossip

We're all human, and sometimes engaging in some "water cooler" gossip is normal. However, as a leader, gossip can damage the respect you've earned. Maintain your behavior as a professional and a mentor. It's important to understand how others see you as a role model and also to hold yourself to a higher standard for that reason.

Gossip simply serves to undermine your role and the role of other stakeholders. Although gossip may seem harmless and exciting, it isn't. Gossip degrades morale and decreases buy-in and productivity. As a leader, it is your responsibility to set a tone of no tolerance when it comes to gossip that can harm individuals, the team's synergy, and the project.

4. Playing favorites

Avoid playing favorites if you want your team to put their best efforts forward. Everyone has their strengths, and some strengths might be more visible or seem more valuable than others. The trouble is, showing or playing favorites to certain team members with strengths and skills that seem more valuable undermines other team members. It creates resentment among other team members or stakeholders, which reduces productivity and creates an environment where output and deliverables suffer. Look for and leverage every strength you can within your team and encourage each member to find their specific talents. The team only wins when each member understands their skills sets and how their contributions make a difference.

5. Presenting biases

The success of a project is never based on your bias as a leader, no matter how skilled, educated, or experienced you might be. Further, your bias may damage the outcome of a project if you use it incorrectly. It's important to recognize that you don't set the goals and requirements for the company or project. Aside from leading a team, facilitating, collaborating with stakeholders, and other project-related roles, you shouldn't inject your bias. Strive to remember your role and avoid allowing yourself to believe you "own" the project in any way. Never veto a stakeholder or team decision because of your own bias. If you believe a mistake is being made that might negatively impact a project, discuss it with the project sponsor or leadership to give them the opportunity to make the best decision possible.

The respect of your team, sponsor, leadership, and other stakeholders depends on your sound judgment and fair practices. Maintaining that respect means you should never be disrespectful, untruthful, engage in gossip, play favorites, or put your bias ahead of the project or team.

Also see

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Image: Kzenon, Getty Images/iStockphoto

By Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder of PMWorld 360 Magazine and Lead-Her-Ship Group, and a project management and digital workplace columnist for various publications. Moira has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large busine...