My freelance roles give me a whole new perspective to many different companies and industries. And the beauty of being the freelancer is that I technically don’t have to deal with the nuances. But, of course, I still have to be on my best behavior, or else I could drastically damage my reputation and put my career in jeopardy.
I’ll be honest when I say that I’ve left past jobs because I couldn’t mend a damaged reputation. This is something many of my millennial friends have struggled with, as we navigate through a working culture that doesn’t quite like to hear our ideas or give us what we think we deserve. There’s a lot of things you can do wrong at work that are quickly fixable. But personality differences and “lack of cultural fit” are things that are pretty tough to handle.
With the right amount of damage control and some extra effort, smoothing your reputation over can happen. Perhaps I’m not the best person to give this advice, but in hindsight, I could have done more. Here are some tips to mend your broken reputation:
Find the root of the problem. So you got some negative feedback from your boss or from a colleague. Perhaps they were ambiguous. Perhaps they were direct. Either way, you’ve got what you need to start a conversation. Clarify the situation and ask how you can fix it. Focus on a plan to move forward rather than defending yourself. Accountability is a beautiful thing.
Find “your person”. Every time I’ve had a tough time at work, I immediately call my mentor. She’s someone who knows me professionally, but is also not afraid to give it to me straight when I need it. I try my best to present the situation to her in the most unbiased manner. Because she knows my strengths, she also knows my weak points. This conversation usually results in a plan for damage control or validation that the other party was in the wrong. Find a neutral, trusted friend or mentor that can be helpful for you in these situations. An outside opinion is so valuable.
Rebuild the relationship. Sounds easy, right? Nope. This is the part of the process that will take the longest. Your authenticity has a fine line here, so you’ve got to be careful not to appear fake. Start by simply apologizing. Sorry carries a lot of weight when it’s said genuinely. If you feel like the situation is best suited for a little processing, set up some time and have a discussion. Be open to feedback and don’t get defensive. If the person asks you for feedback, tread lightly. Remember – you’re the one whose reputation is at stake here. Establish a move-forward plan and consistently ask for feedback.
Didn’t work? Move on. And learn from your mistakes. Sometimes things just are the way they are. And even if you give it all you’ve got to mend what’s broken, sometimes it just isn’t enough. That’s okay. The company culture might be a bad fit, or it might be a sign it’s time to leave anyway. Move on and remember what it was that soiled your reputation…and don’t do it again.
Have you prevailed through a damaged reputation? Tell us your tips in the comments!