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Reputation struggles Reputation struggles
by Joseph Gatt
2020-09-16 08:39:37
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I discussed power struggles the other day that is when individuals compete for power.

This time around I'll discuss “reputation struggles” which is when individuals compete for reputation.

Before I start discussing reputation struggles, I never thought people competed for reputation. But they do, and a lot!

I've been to places where I was asked to stay quiet. At other places I was asked not speak foreign languages. At other places I was barred from eating with chopsticks (because apparently eating with chopsticks would have bumped my reputation up and put other people's reputation down).

repu001_400And even an ex that I dated for 9 years played a huge reputation struggle game, by refusing to marry me, barring me from starting a business, and barring me from talking to the media, because hey, we were in love, but we were also competing when it came to our reputations.

What is a reputation struggle? It's when individuals compete for who will get the best gossip. Who will be the most liked. Who will get the best reviews from other individuals. Who will be all the talk?

So here are examples of reputation struggles on social media (super important!) along with at the household level, at the company level, and at the global business and political levels.

Reputation struggles on social media

You know that time you upload pictures of your trip to Italy and someone updates his or her status minutes later saying something like “I would never travel if I had debt” and you wonder if the pictures you just uploaded have something to do with the status update?

Social media is really a playground for reputation struggles, and can be a dangerous one. A girl uploads a picture of her looking fit, her girlfriends almost immediately all start uploading pictures of them looking fit. Then it's the sexy poses they strike. OK now they're competing for who's going to be the most provocative.

Guys do the same things. I can be a competition for who has the best muscles. It can also be a competition for who has the best brains.

Now the problem with reputation struggles on social media is... people lose all their friends! In real life, reputation struggles are a lot more subtle, and we don't hang out with our friends 24/7. On social media, we hang out with our friends 24/7, and it's a struggle for who will have the best reputation.

How do you win at this reputation struggle game? One way to win is to abstain and refrain from using social media. The other way to win at social media is by using social media for purposes other than reputation struggles, that is using social media with a clear strategy in mind (I've discussed this before, you can use social media as a platform to network with people in the business or as a dating app or as a means to see what your friends and family are up to without ever chipping in and calling them instead).

Of course, not everyone is playing this reputation struggle game on social media. The reputation struggle guys and girls are a special breed of sorts.

Reputation struggles at the household level

Everyone wants to be mamma's favorite! And daddy's favorite!

Yes, kids compete for their reputations, and parents, as a couple, compete for their reputation with the kids, and amongst each other. Then the extended family competes for reputation, and so do family friends.

Competing for the better grades is one way kids like the jack up their reputation. Or for being the better kid at sports. Or for being the better kid at impressing the parents.

And parents like to compete over who the kids will get to like the most.

Now in the next sections I'll discuss how this reputation struggle game can get violent, very violent, or lead to war in some cases.

Reputation struggles at the corporate level

Rather than discuss theory, I'll give real-life examples of this.

Many years ago, a way older friend of mine (I was 21 and he was in his 50s) convinced me to work for his company HQ in Paris.

The older friend of mine was one of the big guys at the company. He made me work with a French guy in his 50s.

Here's what happened. My friend was trying to tell his new French recruit “look I've got 20 year-olds who can get the job done, I could fire you any minute and replace you with this kid.” So my old friend was using me.

Now my French boss was trying to use me through harassment and psychological torture tactics to get to prove to his boss (my friend) that I really couldn't get the job done. So my boss would ask me to summarize 500 reports in a week, and most were dry, useless reports. My summaries were a disaster, and my boss emailed them to his boss (my friend) by saying “look at the kind of work your kid is doing here.”

Now reputation competition can be complicated at the workplace. On the one hand, you have guys who are overrated, and the other hand you have guys who are underrated, and those guys are competing to bump their reputation levels up.

Overrated guys are often guys who went to all the good colleges and have all the tokens but can't get the job done. Underrated guys are usually in the lower positions but could move mountains if they got the job done.

So you have overrated guys competing with overrated guys. Overrated guys competing with underrated guys. Underrated guys competing with overrated and underrated guys. And I've given up on this corporate world reputation war nonsense.

That is, in many corporations, employees, instead of getting the job done, are really trying to impress their colleagues. But their colleagues ignore them, and in turn their colleagues try to impress them, and they ignore their colleagues. Soon enough they'll be cat fights and dog fights on the job.

How do you avoid reputation wars? They're very hard to avoid. One thing you could do is give employees assurances when it comes to keeping their job. Another thing you could do is have clear rules on who gets promoted and how people get promoted, or get retained on the job. Another way to avoid reputation wars is by giving all employees the same pay and the same pay raises. Another way would be to let employees get the job done without paying too much attention at how they're getting the job done, only intervening if employees are resting on their laurels.

Reputation wars at the international political and business level

Everyone wants that seat next to the United States. Everyone wants to be a global company. Everyone wants to be headline news for the good reasons. No one wants to be headline news for the bad reasons.

Then you have country leaders and international business leaders behaving in all kinds of weird ways hoping to get to be front page news, or avoiding being in the headlines when the way they screwed up should really be front page news.

I've worked with country presidents (yes, presidents) who stopped showing up for work because the press was being harsh with them, and by staying at their apartments all day, they were hoping the press would eventually stop the madness. Problem was some people were preventing those presidents from resigning, because those advisers would lose their jobs (and maybe go to prison) if the president resigns.

And I've seen presidents and ministers of defense threaten other countries of war or retaliation if that country gave them bad press. So there are some countries you just can't criticize in the press, no matter how putrid their human rights record. And soon enough, all countries want positive coverage.

You can no longer interview, say, an Indian sports star without interviewing a Pakistani sports star, and soon enough all countries want you to interview their sports stars. And you can't review a Korean book without the Chinese and Japanese hinting you should review their literature.

Reputation wars are here to stay. But next time you log into Facebook or Twitter, keep in mind that a lot of those people are not always saying the truth, but fighting for good press.

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