Senior Editor Tanisha A. Sykes says it's not too late to fix it.
I was almost fired — once. A new boss had just ridden into town and you couldn't tell me that I wasn't smarter than him. I would run around the office saying crazy stuff like "It's not my fault that I'm smarter than him" or "Why do I have to train someone who doesn't know more than I do?" It was mean-spirited and unkind, not at all like the upstanding corporate citizen I hold myself to be. I can remember things getting so bad, that my would-be boss said that if he were about the step off of a cliff, I would've stepped out of the way. I was aghast. Was my attitude really that bad? Probably. I can admit that now. Even though I got out of that mess by owning up to my mistakes, there was something else that was almost irreparable: My reputation. I was suddenly known as a ringleader and a big mouth. If you're finding yourself in a similar quagmire, here's some advice: Stop it. Now. Or, else find yourself trounced out on one ear wondering what in the world happened. How did I turn the tables, you ask? Here are a few pointers.
Be humble. Ok, not my strongest suit. But contrition can work in your favor when you show sincerity. It doesn't mean take crap from bosses or co-workers, but shutting your mouth and getting to work sends a powerful message. It means you are committed to being a good steward for the company. Not a gossiper, a stink starter or a disruption.
Seek out a mentor. Yes, you messed up, but everyone likes to root for the underdog. Seek out a higher up who has always supported you and ask them for their best advice through this crisis. Ask about how to rebuild the relationship with your team, whether there are any new projects you can be a part of or even if this is a good time to consider making the switch to another division or to another company. This last point really depends on the severity of the situation and whether you are being well received.
Move on. It's hard not to play the scenario in your head over and over again. But after a month or two, it's time to refocus, otherwise you will get stuck. Forgive yourself, seek the forgiveness of others and continue to be a person of your word. Your reputation, after all, is counting on it.