When Your Company Is In a Scandal

How Do You Survive And Even Prosper?

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

It seems as if every day we are reading about a new scandal occurring at some prominent company. And the types of scandal are widespread. Accounting fraud, embezzlement, executive malfeasance, price-fixing — you name it.

The Wall Street Journal would be two pages less each day if it were not following scandals.

If, however you find yourself in one of these companies where you thought your job was safe, overnight you begin to worry.

And you should. Sometimes, management begins wholesale changes to satisfy investors, media and the board. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater is not unheard of.

Usually what happens is after the scandal publicly breaks the board fires the CEO or acts like Henry the VIII and sends a number of executives to the chopping block whether they were involved or not. The reasoning being “They should have known”.

The next step is investigations (internal and external), audits, etc. Rumors fly day and night.

Then some new executives are brought into key jobs with a board mandate to “Clean up the problems and restore integrity and reputation to this great company”.

Uh oh! New sheriffs in the building with no loyalty to you armed with brooms. That’s enough to snap your eyes open at 3 a.m.

So, how do you survive and even prosper in this dark environment? Well, sometimes you cannot — you may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But often, you can do well.

The new players are looking for information, new ideas and progress. Remember, this company is a flying airplane, being repaired in the air and must keep moving forward. You can help. Stay positive. But, if you know of a real problem somewhere, then let the new management know. Volunteer to take the new executives around to all the physical plants that are appropriate. If there is an opening for a staff position to a new executive, try like hell to grab that position.

Do not become a tattletale. Don’t spread rumors. Do not become the person the new executives thinks tells on everyone else whether the problem is big or small. Then they will not trust you and will fire you when you run out of “tales”.

Get close — but get close the new crowd in a businesslike manner and with helpful information.

In other words act steadily, professionally and develop trust and loyalty one day at a time.


2 Responses to “When Your Company Is In a Scandal”

Mariana Pinner Says:

I’ve enjoyed reading your blog postings the last few months and I look forward to reading Executive Warfare, now that it’s out. Your other books have been a pleasure to read and offered keen insight into branding and career development.

Tess McGill Says:

The thing about scandal is that it doesn’t simmer on the stove, waiting for the final ingrediant to bubble it out of control. Scandal lurks and hides in the dark corners of middle management, the whispers of uncertaintity the pettyness of day to day interaction about resources and of course those secrets only whispered amoung resume revisiors. There is no question that todays employees are not the life long compnay men and women of our parnets generation. This is a world where each man is on his own from the moment you’re handed your first company embossed notebook folder.

How do you reconcile fear, ambition and expectations for the sake of your quest for advancement. Exuding restraint, developing knowledge about areas other than your own. Prooving to the powers that be that you above your peers have taken the time to develop a broad base of understanging about all business units and divisions. Giving yourself the ability to think above and around issues. Asking the questions that should be asked but aren’t. Push for opportunity to show your readiness to be a room changer? A leader others will seek out for counsel, ideas and guidance to get to the top spot.
If you are aware scandal is on the horizon, don’t run, be proactive. identify the hard calls and suggest them. Don’t be afraid to be bold just don’t be brash. THoughful measured and disciplened actions help you find the place where lightening will strike. No one wants to be the bad guy but offering to head a group who can deflect the hard desicions to the safer spot light of group consensus.

Your company was a great brand and your work there was samrt. Don’t shy away from admiting your part but be proud of what your brand had been. Be proud of having had the chance to experience the sucess and rise of the culture and know what you have learned and your confidnet willingness to be a voice of reason when trouble surfaces. I have heard that the only great generals are made in war, the others just got to be generals. This time, this environment invites generals to stand up and show how great they are.


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