Dealing With Character Assassination
As promised, here are some tips for dealing with character assassination at work:
-- Clear up any misrepresentations by responding with facts. Don’t get into name-calling or write an emotional response to an email or memo. Just present the facts and list/name any witnesses who can substantiate what occurred. Additionally, you may also want to refer staff to supporting documentation, such as previous emails, instructions disseminated to the project team or other information in your possession that confirms your version of events.
-- Have a zero tolerance policy for anyone attempting to slander your name and/or falsely assassinate your character. Your family name is priceless. It may not mean much to those you work with, but it should mean everything to you. You were born with that name and regardless of what kind of life you’ve lead (whether you come from poverty, abuse, etc.) NO ONE has a right to tarnish your name with false statements about who you are and what you represent. The name you have is the name that you carry to your grave. Wear your name with pride. Don’t let anyone get away with character assassination. I don’t care if you’re a janitor or an executive. Don't worry about being labeled as sensitive. You may be called much worse at your next performance evaluation, if you let people create false perceptions about you!
-- Character assassination must be addressed, in writing, to all those who received negative communication about you or to those who were directly spoken to with negative information. Your silence can be construed as agreement, when you don’t address negative statements about yourself and your job performance. Don’t worry about the mind game, “you’re sensitive” or “you can’t take criticism.” Those comments are a way to put you back on the plantation, as if you have no voice in what goes on around you and what perceptions are created about you. You don't want to get into an email war, but you can't let certain misrepresentations just slide!
-- Don’t be defensive. Instead, address any issues head on, including what may have lead to the individual’s false characterization of you. If you believe that some prior incident may have sparked someone’s false perceptions about you, clear it up. If something you did was taken out of context or misunderstood, explain your intentions and clarify the cause of the confusion.
-- Document everything. If a person is routinely assassinating your character, document every incident you find out about and make a witness list that can corroborate that the person is making major efforts to tarnish and destroy your reputation.
-- Talk to your supervisor and HR. Present any documentation you have about patterns of behavior meant to destroy your reputation, name witnesses, etc. Demand that the person and their accusations be addressed. Request a meeting with HR, your supervisor, and the perpetrator, to clear the air. See if the person is willing to repeat any false claims in front of HR and your supervisor or if they will deny it.
-- Ask for corrective action against the perpetrator, once it is proven they have been slandering you around the office. Do not let this slide. Demand to know what consequences await the individual.