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What To Do When Your Reputation Is Challenged
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 10/10/2011

Teamwork a Sometimes, when all goes well, you find yourself in an enviable position. You have quality, lengthy experience on the job and you understand operations in a rather thorough manner. You get along well with colleagues of all classifications and have a reasonable rapport with prisoners. The sum of all this is you are generally regarded as having a good professional reputation.

There are many obvious benefits to this. People come to you for advice. You learn and grow from their queries. This makes your work life easier and less stressful, as others are willing to go the extra mile for you. Inter area rapport is fostered and good feelings buttress the security mission.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, your comfortable position as a local sage is questioned. Someone with much less seniority than you calls every decision you make into question. Sometimes this is done in a covert, sneaky way and you learn of this from colleagues that trust you. Still, you feel the damage has been done to reputation, as others are questioning it through the doubt exhibited by the low seniority person. Other times, the critic is out in the open and almost in-your-face regarding each decision you make.

This provokes problems. You wonder how you will maintain your good standing when your professional reputation comes into question. How do you address such a challenge?
  • Consider that the criticism might be an area of improvement. You might be able to increase your professional standings by showing acceptance of others’ observations.
  • Is the person right, if not awkward? Is it a case of ham-handed constructive criticism?
  • Imagine the motives of the disparaging party. Are you perhaps stepping onto their professional territory? Or is he or she trying to carve part of your professional territory?
  • Disregard the reputation and position of the grouser for a moment. Does he or she have a leg to stand on? Are they stirring the pot or bringing up a valid point?
  • Is the disparaging person trying to shake a bad reputation of their own through displacement and diversion?
  • Look at it in terms of the larger security picture. Does what the person questions about your methods make sense in scheme of things?
  • Use a very critical eye to discern if it may be harassment. It is possible that this person has an ax to grind you. Be careful before you accuse.
  • Talk to the person about the issue. Get a feel for the person. Asking in a tactful, yet direct manner may silence unnecessary griping.
  • Present all facts in an unbiased manner to a trusted colleague. Perhaps they have insight into the matter.
  • Find another project. Perhaps moving on to something else will enhance your professional reputation.

Remember that a reputation is best used for practical matters. Helping maintain security for all is a noble and useful endeavor. A reputation should not be flaunted. It should not be like owning a sports car or some new electronic device and bragging about to others. Ideally, it should be a matter of utility rather than connected to the ego.

Undoubtedly, comfort is – for lack of a better word – comfortable. However when we are pushed out of our zone of comfort is best to rise appropriately to the challenge. After all, it will be a very boring work world if we were unquestioned and believe that our word is complete legal. That would inhibit growth and reduce checks and balances. Besides, your hard-earned reputation is worth the efforts to reassess it from time to time.

Editor's note: Corrections.com author, Joe Bouchard, has been with the Michigan Department of Corrections since 1993 as a Librarian for the Baraga Correctional Facility. He also teaches criminal justice and corrections classes for Gogebic Community College. He is the editor of The Correctional Trainer, the official journal of the International Association of Corrections Training Personnel and MCA Today, the official journal of the Michigan Corrections Association.

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