Corporate reputation is the way in which the corporation is perceived by various stakeholders – employees, clients, shareholders, and the general public. 

It's a measure of the company's credibility and trustworthiness. And it's determined by its conduct, behaviour, quality of products and services and communications with stakeholders.

Such is its importance that a company's reputation can make it or break it. In short, a good reputation is good for business. A bad reputation is bad for business. This is because a company is judged by accepted social standards of morality, ethics, honesty, and efficiency – the same standards by which we as individuals are judged. 

The stakeholders in a workplace – shareholders, executives, managers, and employees – are the primary influencers and shapers of an employer's reputation. They have the most immediate capacity to project a positive or negative image of the employer.

There are many ways in which employees can damage their employer's reputation. They often emerge either as the main charge in a disciplinary enquiry – or as an aggravating factor as a consequence of an allegation of gross misconduct or gross negligence

Some examples –

  • Breaching the employee's duty of good faith to the employer.
  • Bringing the employer's name and business into disrepute.
  • Damaging the trust in the employment relationship.
  • Defaming the company.
  • Unbecoming conduct in public. 

There are times when an employee intentionally does something to damage the employer's reputation. This could be in response to a perceived injustice by the employer or as a tactic to divert attention from a valid charge of misconduct. 

The damage may equally be caused by an employee's negligence, such as publishing inaccurate information about the employer's business, or failing to render a service in keeping expected standards. 

It could also be caused by simple unthinking carelessness (stupidity) such as behaving badly at a public event like a soccer or cricket match…while wearing an employer branded hat or other item which connects the conduct to the employer. This can be worse still if the images are published widely on TV, the press or on social media.

TIP:  An employer should take proactive steps to manage its reputation by reminding employees of its importance and how they need to behave to protect it. To this end, it can continuously cultivate a positive working environment in which employees are happy and proud to be associated with their employer. Clear policies and practical guidelines on what constitutes acceptable standards both at work and in public are recommended. In particular, employers need to update social media policy and remember the permanent nature of social media posts…and that they are forwarded. And there's the other danger of the “reply all” on email to guard against.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.