How to Handle a Scandal at Work

When Roseanne Barr made the remarks on social media that led to the cancellation of her show, she cost over 200 people their jobs. In this case, because the scandal was so public, those writers, actors, crew members, and other workers won’t be tainted by association. But in lower-profile cases, that can happen.

If you work at a company that goes under because someone (or maybe a lot of people) did something wrong, it could hurt your ability to get work going forward. That’s not fair, but sometimes when a dark cloud surrounds a business, it can taint everyone involved.

To counteract that, there are some steps you can take. What you can’t do is put your head in the sand. If you worked for a company or a boss brought down by a scandal, you have to be proactive.

Networking is a key part of getting hired. Image source: Getty Images.

Get yourself out there

It’s hard to explain in a resume or cover letter that, yes, you worked for Harvey Weinstein, but, no, you had no idea of what he was up to behind closed doors. That’s an extreme example, but it shows how scandal can taint people even if they had nothing to do with the actual bad actions.

If that’s your situation, the best remedy is to network and have potential employers get to know you. If you proactively meet people who may hire you, you can get ahead of their questions and address their potential questions about your past. In person, it’s a lot easier to explain that you were as surprised as everyone else when the scandal became public, or to detail how far removed from it you actually were.

Have professional references ready

In many cases, checking references is a formality. If you worked at a company tainted by scandal, however, having people who can forcefully vouch for your character becomes much more important.

If you’re having trouble getting interviews at all, you may want to have your professional references — people who can attest to your impeccable work and integrity — be part of your networking process. Ask these contacts to reach out on your behalf to people who may be hiring.

Take interim work

Sometimes it makes sense to not look for a full-time job. If you’re having trouble getting hired, you may consider taking a consulting job or even taking on a volunteer project. The goal is to have an entree on your resume that gives you distance from your scandal-scarred former employer.

It’s important that whatever you do is meaningful and fits with your career narrative. This is an opportunity to allow a company to see some of your work without committing to you. And, at worst, it’s a chance to get another reference/advocate on your side.

It’s all about being proactive

When a company posts a job opening, in a lot of cases the hiring manager gets flooded by resumes and cover letters. Because of that, the person doing the hiring may be looking for reasons to not hire you. Even something as small as having your last employer be one that was tainted by scandal could cause you to end up on the discard pile.

Avoiding that requires being active. All of the steps above go beyond just applying for jobs. If you take some of them, you should be able to move beyond whatever unfortunate event has tainted you by association.

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