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Management Tip (8) – Getting a Reputation? Get a Good One - Act Ethically!

“A good reputation is more valuable than money.” Publilius Syrus, Maxims


People can acquire reputations for all sorts of things; being outspoken, good at finishing projects on time and on budget, good at dealing with difficult staff, being intolerant of fools, being resourceful, easily angered or even-tempered. All sorts of characteristics and attributes can be attached to an individual. But what about Acting Ethically.

If I could wish for a reputation, it would be for acting ethically. Others will have to be the judge of whether I have succeeded - they are the arbiters of my reputation.

Reputations are hard won but easily lost – is that what they say? Just ask the British motor manufacturers of the 1970s. If you can find one.

According to the Notable Quotes website regarding reputation:

“A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was.” Joseph Hall, attributed, Golden Quotes.

As a manager, one lives by one’s reputation.

I once worked with a person who was very volatile – they* could say anything, at any time. This person wanted to get their own way and, if I disagreed, they would try various tactics to persuade me. My main concern was when we went away on business trips overseas. Any accusation about my conduct outside normal working hours would have been impossible to refute but would have damaged my reputation – the eyes would have been on where the crack was.

* I know I’m using the third person plural which is grammatically incorrect but I want to keep this gender neutral.

As a manager I think it is important to build a reputation for the good qualities. I try to set standards for all but I try to make sure I meet them myself!

Life is a constant barrage of choices: Right/wrong, good/bad, acceptable/unacceptable, miss out/don’t miss out.

As everybody is different it is no surprise that we all have different standards to one another. There may be generally acceptable standards but each of us complies, or not, as we see fit, to a greater or lesser extent. As a manager, it is important that I lead by example and to have standards that I won’t go below.

Something I have noticed recently is that there does seem to be a move these days to be offended. “I’m offended by this!” or “That offends me!”

There are even people who are offended because I’m not offended. “That is awful, don’t you think? I am offended by that, aren't you? How can you NOT be offended?! It offends me that you are not offended!”

I try to keep the workplace happy and friendly, where people are not threatened and where people are not offended (no matter how sensitive they are!).

Therefore, some behaviours are always unacceptable: bullying and intimidation, bad language, racism, sexism, in fact, any form of discrimination – beardism, heightism, ageism, baldism or any otherism.

I hope my standards accord with the values and standards of the organisation. If they don’t I would have to consider if I was working for the right organisation.


“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Bible, Proverbs 22:1


Most people in business know whether to accept gifts, meals, hospitality or not. My Dad, who worked for the Gas Board in London when it was a nationalised industry of the government, came home from work one evening and said that he had been offered a holiday in Spain for us all by a supplier company. My Mum was really pleased, “Did you accept it?” she asked. “Of course not.” He said, “They wanted something from me.” Not long after that the company that offered my Dad the inducement collapsed when the main players went to prison for fraud.

As a regulator and employee of the Australian government I had to be very careful about what hospitality I accepted. Sometimes it was just easier not to accept any. Airservices Australia was the largest of the organisations I regulated and it had a new Manager Safety. We arranged to meet for an informal ‘catch-up’. I went over to Rob’s office and we went to a local coffee shop. “What do you want to drink?” says Rob.

“I’ll have a tea, please, but I’m paying.”

“That’s OK,” says Rob, “I’ll get it.”

“Thanks Rob, but I’ll get my own. I don’t want there to be any possibility of criticism.” So we both bought our own drinks. A bit pedantic, maybe, but it set the standard.

The next time we met was at my office and we went through the same process, “What would you like?” says I (I was happy to buy his drink but I didn’t want him to buy mine).

“Coffee, please. But I’ll get it” says Rob. We got our own. And so it went. True story.

The message is: Set ethical standards and make sure you meet them yourself. Be intolerant of unacceptable behaviour. Speak-up when you see or hear something which doesn’t meet the standards. Let people know what the standards are and live by them yourself.


“It's not who you know that matters--it's who knows you that's important. Personal branding builds up your reputation to the point where you have a presence even in your absence.” Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not For Sale


We live by our reputations - Make it a good one!

This article is just my view of the topic at title. Like a lot of people, I’ve done some training in management techniques but there is no substitute for experience. In my case, a bit of trial and error, learning from my mistakes, watching other managers and a little common sense. I hope you found it of interest and assistance.

Peter Cromarty

Peter Cromarty is a former air traffic controller and pilot. He spent 27 years as a safety regulator of ATM/CNS, airspace and aerodromes.

View his Linked In profile.

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