How To Rebuild Your Reputation When It Takes A Knock

Your reputation is incredibly valuable. But like many precious things in life (health, love, friendship, a decent stash of chocolate in the cupboard) you don’t always appreciate how valuable it is until it’s gone.

Sometimes your reputation takes a knock because of your own foolish actions (hindsight is a wonderful thing). Sometimes your name becomes mud because someone decides to bad-mouth you to others . (I speak from experience here, having been maligned by someone who spread untruths about me.) Either way, if the word on the street about your personal brand is a negative one, it’s going to make doing your job and getting buy-in from your stakeholders a lot harder.

It’s time to take action

If you think your reputation is bad enough to make your granny raise her eyebrows, what can you do to take control? Here are my top three suggestions:

Tip #1 – Get a clear picture

The first thing to do is work out just how bad the situation is and the effect it’s actually having – because what may seem apocalyptic in one light can look like a storm in a teacup in another.

In the case of the person who was bad-mouthing me, his comments influenced someone who was thinking of working with me to not work with me, as I found out from them years later – obviously a bad thing. But I also heard from someone else who said the rumours had made her think less of the guy spreading them and more of me – a beneficial upside.

There’s little in life that’s black and white, so take time to consider the shades of grey to get a clearer picture of how much damage your reputation is suffering. Having that means you’ll know how much action is required.

Tip #2 – Enlist some cheerleaders

Fixing a damaged reputation shouldn’t be a solo task (you’ll have limited effect on your own), so enlist the help of people who you know are on your side to spread some positivity about you. It’ll require some vulnerability on your part, but being honest about what’s occurred and how you’d like their help to rectify the situation will pay dividends.

In my case, the woman who ended up thinking more of me had rung me to get my side of the story. It was a great indicator of the strength of our relationship and opened the door for me to ask her to put that side to others whenever my name cropped up.

Tip #3 – Start afresh

Sometimes a broken reputation is like a broken piece of pottery: you can fix it, but the cracks will still show. If you’ve followed Tip #1 and discovered your reputation is in tatters and Tip #2 has revealed you have few (if any) cheerleaders, a fresh start may be required.

That might mean changing teams, changing companies, changing sectors or, in the worst case scenario, changing countries. (You’d have to have done a real doozy of a mistake for that one!)

The point is, people have long memories and if you’re never going to shake your bad reputation with one audience, a new one is called for. It may seem like an upheaval in the short-term, but in the long-run it’ll be worth it.

What advice would you give someone whose reputation has taken a knock? Or have you ever been in that situation yourself? I’d be interested to hear other perspectives, so please do leave a comment below. Thank you!

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4 responses to “How To Rebuild Your Reputation When It Takes A Knock”

  1. Nikki Alderson says:

    Great blog, Jennifer, and one I hope I will never have to call upon!! So useful nonetheless. When in business on your own, you can often feel very exposed and your experiences and reflections are a helpful reminder of how important it is to prioritise the maintenance of a good reputation.

  2. Jeff says:

    I’m sure you have as least as good a reputation as anybody. Hope you are both keeping well.

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      Thanks Jeff. Luckily for me, the guy spreading the rumours got his comeuppance a while later and his own reputation was in the spotlight. Karma is a delight!

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