Your reputation is your greatest asset. Protect it with your life.

Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation!”

Thus cried Cassio, Othello’s lieutenant who foolishly allowed himself to be drawn in to a drunken brawl and suffered the consequences of being stripped of his rank. But the loss of his reputation, rather than his rank was for him, much much worse.

Many of Shakespeare’s plays explore themes of reputation and honour, and in 16th century Europe such notions were absolutely core to human experience in ways most of us would find strange today. “Mine honour is my life; both grow in one: Take honour from me, and my life is done.” was not just a poetic maxim but also a living reality for commoners as well as kings.

But reputation still matters even in the cynical 21st century – just look at the length people will go to, to clear “their name” if they feel they have been wrongly accused or the extent to which global ‘brands’ will go to, to protect and maintain it.

But what happens to professional people when they lose their reputation?

Ask a politician who has been convicted of fiddling expenses claims…. a doctor who has been struck off the medical register for unethical conduct… or a police officer convicted of corruption…

They are likely to have lost trust, authority and the respect of the public, their clients and their colleagues and peers – usually with catastrophic and irredeemable effect. For them the road back to respectability is a long and tortuous one – even if they have the option and desire – of walking it.

As a professional person, your reputation is your greatest asset. Protect it with your life.

Cassio was left bereft and inconsolable: “I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.

Alan Newland worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer and headteacher in London for over 20 years and then for a decade with the DfE and the GTC. He now lectures on teaching and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk.  You can follow him on Twitter at @newteacherstalk or book him as a speaker to your ITT students. His new book “Working in Teaching” (Crimson Publishing) was published in March 2014.



4 thoughts on “Your reputation is your greatest asset. Protect it with your life.

  1. Quick comment in that I think that, in the age of social media it may be more important and difficult to avoid reputation damage.

    If teachers have their Facebook profiles/twitter feeds/blogs open to all then, anyone can snoop in and then take what they want out of any original context and ‘fit you up’. You can of course, attempt to maintain privacy which comes up against two challenges – Facebook’s constant changing of privacy options (and their desire to open everything up in order to commodify your info), and of course, the fact that many teachers use twitter and blogs as a way of opening up their thoughts for professional dialogue.

    The recent ‘talktoteens’ case and the ‘bomb Robin Hood airport’ one too, show the ways in which tweets can be taken out of context and used against the tweeter. One can only guess how long it may be before a teacher who is ‘tagged’ in a photo by someone on facebook is carpeted for what is pictured.

    1. I couldn’t agree more Robert – teachers who use social media are in for some real challenges. However, I do think it’s up to all of us to make a distinction between the aspects of our reputation that are justifiably open to scrutiny and those aspects of our private life which are not.

      The cases you refer to highlight an important point I think – that just because you are on Twitter and Facebook doesn’t mean you are always in ‘public’. If we can’t defend our social discourse on those channels as ‘private’, then we might as well give up on having a ‘private’ conversation with our best friends or partners in the street, in the pub or on the bus.

      The ‘public interest’ of what is expected conduct of a teacher should not extend to what the ‘public is interested in’.

      But you are right, major challenges lay ahead… Thanks for a really good post.

    2. I’m currently doing my PGCE year and we’ve had lots of advice about being careful of what information is out in public. And while facebook doesn’t make it easy for us to consistently stay locked down, you can actually set your account up so that no-one can tag you in a photo / check you in somewhere without you approving it. Facebook will send you an email & notification which you have to approve before the tag / check-in shows on your profile.

      1. Thanks for that mirobinson – words of wisdom and based on the common sense recognition that social media is not, in principle, any different from any other social interaction where you need to trust those you are interacting with, and if you’re not sure, then take precautions and minimise risk. Thanks a lot for that – I’m sure it will be useful advice to lots of others. And good luck with the course!

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