There are going to be plenty of times in our professional (and personal) lives where people are really going to annoy us, and royally piss us off. Sometimes, it’s enough to make you quit your job, and other times you just dig in your heels and stay. You may be on your way out of a job, and wanting to leave a parting gift for HR, and management, so that they get the message that they’re really screwing things up. Resist the urge. Stay professional no matter what, and keep your professional reputation intact.
Remember- it’s not just a cliche that the world is a very small place. It doesn’t matter if you live in a city with 10 million residents. Or that we live in a global economy. Your reputation will follow you wherever you go. It will either be positive or negative, and everything that you’ve done to that point will build on that reputation, and image of who you are as a professional. Everything you do builds your reputation and your personal brand. Think about that for a minute. To me, that’s enormously humbling, a bit scary, and the magnitude is a bit overwhelming as well. I do mean to say that everything you do, good and bad. Every negotiation. Every job you’ve done, and even your personal life affect your personal brand.
That’s not to say that you can’t do damage control, that you can’t change, and become a reformed person. That you can’t change your life. But it does make it a whole lot trickier, because people unfortunately have long memories, especially for negative stuff. Due to how our brains work, we are so wired to remember the negative, and less the positive things.
That means that when you are interacting with people, you need to stay professional no matter what happens. Think about your negotiation style. Is it super hardball? Is that what you want to be known for? How do you achieve resolutions to conflicts? Are you a leader or a follower? Do you come up with new and novel ways to solve problems? Do you drop assignments at work? Chances are, if you’ve ever dropped an assignment, you are perceived as at least somewhat unreliable, and unprofessional. I’ve had situations where I’ve had to totally resist the urge to stomp on someone because they really deserved it. Truly they did. But that would break with the professional, kind persona that I choose to portray instead.
I’ve been in situations that have tested me pretty mightily. I’m sure that you have too. We all have. It’s how you handle the tough situations that shows how professional you are, and how well you are going to manage professional mine-fields. Navigating the easy stuff, well, that’s no test at all.