It’s important to remember that anytime we create a negative interaction with another, it has a shelf life much longer that you would ever imagine. We humans are wired to respond to crises and potential disasters in the oldest part of our brain. As a result, brain research says that we are five times more likely to remember a negative interaction than a positive one.
And this is amplified when that negative moment emanates from a power figure such as a boss. You will have to demonstrate over a longer period of time than you can imagine that you no longer get things done through negative motivation or through careless insensitivity to others.
If you have a reputation of being an “a**hole” and you want to evolve that reputation to being a tough but admired leader, you have to change that perception one day at a time, which is a manageable equation. If you concentrate on handling well just this one interaction and then the next, it won’t be as hard as you think to change your habits. When you interact with others, consciously choose that you will manage well both the relationship and the result – no tradeoff is needed.
Another helpful way to alleviate such a label is to ask for feedback regularly so that people have to consciously acknowledge that things have changed. Many times those that work for you are attached to the old reputation and have a hard time adjusting to the new leadership you may truly be exhibiting. By consciously acknowledging, or offering you constructive criticism, they have to let go as well.