Question: My reputation as a poor worker has been circling me for the past two years. It is only recently that I learned my supervisor has been adding details to my performance reviews, and sharing them with others. I have reported this, and it is under investigation.

This would explain why my reputation is so terrible. I’ve been passed over for three jobs that I applied for within the company as well as several other projects I’ve volunteered for. I am a “runner,” not a “walker,” always at the top of my game, eager to please and work hard to make accomplishments. How do I correct this situation?

Norma
(City and State Not Specified)

Answer: Dear Norma: Reputation repair is a particularly vexing problem. It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, and only a minute – or a mean person – to ruin one. Here are my thoughts.    

1. Ultimately, it is good work and good relations that build a solid – and almost unshakeable – reputation. There have been so many times in my life that I have heard things said about people I know – and people I know to be great people – that I simply WILL NOT believe unless I see proof of what is being said. We all know that people sometimes start malicious rumors, have jealousy in their hearts, and have self-interest in mind when they say bad things about another person, and so, hopefully, bear in mind “innocent until proven guilty.” For this reason, the ultimate way to dispel a bad reputation is to remain unflappable, and earn and then re-earn your good reputation each day by good work and good relations. There is nothing more effective or more long-lasting than that in “un-building” a poor reputation.

2. Make a proactive written request for an independent, objective new performance review for each of the years in question. Your letter indicates that you have filed a “report” but does not say if (a) it was written, or, more importantly, (b) if it made requests in order to “solve the problem.” Don’t make the big mistake of waiting for Human Resources to come up with solutions for you; you must aggressively and persistently stand up for yourself. Your first written, proactive request – to solve the problem caused by your supervisor’s actions – should be for a new, independent and objective performance review for each of the years in question. It should be written, sent by email, respectful, and to the point: a problem exists that requires a prompt solution.

3. At the same time, make a proactive written request for an “Action Plan” to remedy the wrongful situation. It appears quite likely that your supervisor may have violated two important company policies: (i) retroactive alteration of Performance Reviews, and (ii) breach of confidentiality regarding them. Because “you never get unless you ask,” I would suggest you make a concrete, detailed and practical “Action Plan” for your (a) transfer from your present supervisor, (b) promotion into a different role, and (c) ideal career path for your future, and submit it to your supervisor’s supervisor and Human Resources representative. A transfer, promotion and new position in which to rebuild your tarnished reputation is probably the most valuable goal you can achieve.     

4. Never forget: persistence pays off like nothing else does.  Merely making a report or complaint rarely gets correction of a serious wrong. You need to follow up, sometimes repeatedly. Sometimes it takes going “higher up,” as well, to make it certain that you are not going to “fade away” without correction of what has happened. In each instance, you might remind people that you are only doing what is right, what is in keeping with company policies, and intended to correct a problem, not cause one. You might also consider making mention that it is your hope and expectation that you will not be retaliated against in any way for these efforts.

Norma, anyone faced with a problem reputation at work has an uphill climb in front of them. Don’t despair: a determined person can overcome any obstacle, and this is one many people do, in fact, overcome. Make a plan, proceed with that plan, and stick to that plan, with persistence and then more persistence, and you have every chance for succeeding. 

Thanks for writing in. My bet is on you!!  

Best,
Al Sklover

PS: Our Model Letters help people stand up for themselves at work. If you or a friend is soon to face a Severance, Resignation, Bully Boss, Performance Improvement Plan, or other workplace problem, consider a Model Letter as a “Helping Hand Gift.” Just [click here] to view our list.

Help Yourself With
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Perf Rw 1: Before Performance Review: Memo to Make It Most Positive Possible
Perf Rw 2: After Performance Review: Model Rebuttal to Performance Review
Perf Rw 3: After Performance Review: Request for Perf. Rebuttal Forms & Procedures
Perf Rw 4: 141-Pt. Master Guide and Checklist for Performance Reviews
Perf Rw 5: After Perf. Review: Model Memo Thanking Manager for Helpful Review

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© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.