Amie over at Written Expressions has a neat discussion going about talking about someone else’s work in a negative light and getting called on it. We’ve all done it at some point, and some of us have lost jobs (well, there were other things going on there, but yes, I did lose a job), lost face, or dented the reputation a bit. People do remember the good things, but did you ever notice the one screw-up, the one thing you do that’s out of your expected character sets you up for a long haul of making amends and erasing? That is, if you can erase it.
There was the encounter I had with a dude who did work for me. The arrangement from the start was I was to get the work for free and he was to bill a third party (a business association) for the work as they had contracted him. The work was done and it was great. But a year later, I got an email from him saying he’d seen my site. I sent him a note once again thanking him for all his help. The note back, well, it wasn’t cordial.
He accused me of theft. I’d stolen his work because I’d never paid the bill, he said. Worse, he went on to trash my professionalism, bit by bit. He called names and he told me not to ever refer him because he didn’t want my name associated with his.
What I did was what I was taught by this same business association. I called them, forwarded his email and let them handle him. I did send him a note telling him he was mistaken in who owed him money, mentioning also that I’d never received his invoice, and asking him why it took a year for him to alert me to it. I went no further. I sure as hell won’t ever pass his name along, but not at his request. He acted horrendously for a so-called professional, and I never received any form of apology for his misunderstanding and aiming his anger at me. No way I’d subject anyone to that, no matter how good this guy was.
There’s a man whose reputation will never be repaired in my eyes. But there are other encounters that have had some tension, some sort of bad behavior or missteps, that have turned out okay in the end. In most cases, I’ve continued to work with these folks, but I keep a sharp eye out for any impending issue.
My own reputation took a hit when I tried negotiating with a client whose pay scale suddenly changed. My congenial nature went right out the window, for we’d agreed to one price and he was now saying another price (thank God for contracts). In that case, my rep went south a bit as I asserted our contract terms and he got angry because I wasn’t giving in. I was justified in sticking to my guns, but it still dented my rep, for he’s sure to talk to his colleagues. That’s why I keep emotion out of everything – if all they can say about me is I’m unreasonable because I won’t budge on price, I can live with that.
My lost job years ago – long story involving several factors (including a heavy dose of sexism, in my opinion). But I did act badly in email (note: never vent your anger in emails. They live forever). That was the catalyst that allowed them to walk me out. That I had my desk cleaned out a month prior was an indication of the atmosphere and my knowledge that they were looking for excuses. But my rep there – gone. No way I’ll recover from it, even if I wanted to.
So what about you? When have you lost a bit of reputation? How did you recover? Has someone whose worked for you lost some credibility because of bad behavior?