3 career mistakes that can ruin your reputation (and how to recover)
Have you ever made a mistake at work? Of course you have, you’re human (or at least we hope you are). Fumbling as we work is inevitable, but sometimes our slipups can feel more like PR nightmares – and for many they are.
Take Steve Jobs as an example. He was fired from Apple when he was 30 years old and, at the time, was seen as a failure. As we all know, though, he bounced back, rejoining the company in 1996 and changing the world with the iPhone and iPad.
Most of us aim for the straight and narrow, but there may be times where our squeaky-clean reputation takes a bit of a hit. As Jobs proves, though, it is possible to recover.
We reached out to the experts to find out which career mistakes are most damaging, and how we can recover from them.
Getting fired (and lying about it)
Losing a job is devastating as it can be an indication of poor performance or bad behaviour. These are the things that immediately come to mind when a person’s name is associated with the word “fired,” so it’s clear why this would be damaging to a person’s character. The good thing is, it’s not a lost cause.
“There are ways of coming back from getting fired,” says Mary Kruger career expert at MLK Coaching. “Try to come to an agreement that you get laid off – it looks better.”
Whichever way the situation turns out, it’s important to be honest and ensure your story is consistent with your previous employer. “It’s a small world and you never know who a hiring manager is connected to,” adds Kruger.
Although you’ve been let go from a job, the whole experience doesn’t have to be a write off. “The biggest thing is making sure you get references,” suggests Kruger. “A lot of companies will still supply you with a reference even though they let you go, because they don’t want court action. Sometimes it’s possible, sometimes it’s not.”
If getting a reference from your direct manager isn’t an option, try to get a reference from a colleague or manager you worked with in another department. “References are important,” says Kruger.
Getting on the bad side of a past employer
We often say and do things we regret in the heat of the moment, like quitting on the spot without notice, which is one of the most common ways of damaging a relationship with an employer.
“When you walk out on someone you’re leaving them in the lurch,” says Kruger. “When you burn bridges, you don’t necessarily get references. It’s much better if you give notice, you’re going to leave a much better opinion of yourself.”
There are ways to redeem yourself if you’re a victim of your own rage. Kruger suggests admitting your mistake. “I encourage people to be honest and upfront…go back, be humble, and see if there’s anything that can be done to rectify the situation.”
Sending an email or private message on social media is a great first step in making amends. It’s always best to apologize in person if possible, so ask if they’d be willing to meet for lunch or coffee so you can repent for your bad behavior – and yes you should most definitely pick up the tab!
Having an office fling with your manager (or direct report)
If you haven’t been hit by cupid’s arrow at the office, you’ve probably, at minimum, witnessed a few romances flourish between colleagues. Clearly, not all employee romances lead to career disasters, but romantic relationships between a manager and a direct report can lead to accusations of favoritism and misconduct. Both can damage a career – especially if there is a company policy prohibiting this type of behavior.
“If you’re a manager having a romantic relationship with a subordinate or somebody that reports to you, I think that can be a career killer,” says Kruger. “You want to avoid that situation if you can.”
But the heart wants what the heart wants, and sometimes the best line of defense is getting ahead of the situation before it becomes an issue.
“Talk with the HR department first and ask for their suggestions…consider transferring to a different department,” says Kruger. “You don’t want to hurt your reputation, so you do have to be careful about stuff like this.”