How to Bounce Back When Your Reputation Has Taken a Hit

Dear Terra,

I’m losing my mind.  I’ve worked at my company for almost 15 years. This whole time I’ve consistently exceeded my sales goals and have been considered a top performer, with the ratings and awards to prove it.  This all changed about 2 years ago.

The company redesigned the way that sales employees are evaluated and now our numbers are just part of the equation.  Instead there’s a set of behaviors that my manager gets to assess.  With a new manager and new rules, I quickly went from superstar to employment risk.  They are even talking about putting me on a performance improvement plan.  To make matters worse, my manager and I don’t really get along.  I think that she’s threatened by my experience and the informal leadership role that I play on this team. 

I’m considering sending a letter to HR to file a complaint.  Is this a good idea?



Dear Linda,

I can only imagine how angry all of this makes you.  This is exactly why we can’t rely on others to validate our fabulousness! Please know that you are the same talented, hard working employee that you were before, the game just changed.

You can be mad about the change and spend your time complaining, or you can figure out how to master the rules of the new game for success.  Guess which one I recommend? (BTW – don’t waste your time with a letter to HR, you don’t have a strong enough case for bias.)

So here are the things we must work on and a few coaching questions to help you get there:

1.  Strengthen your support base so that your manager’s perspective isn’t the only one being considered

  • How does the evaluation and promotion process work in your company?
  • Who is involved in the decisions about promotions?
  • What is your reputation and relationship with each of these critical players?

2.  Rehabilitate your relationship with your manager

  • How can you show your manager that you respect and defer to her leadership without giving up your power?
  • Consider the other members of your team. Who does the manager treat like a star player?  Based on this, what traits do you believe are valued by your manager?

3.  Figure out how to get better scores on the new evaluations

  • According to the new evaluation criteria, which areas are your most problematic?
  • What specific behaviors does your manager need to SEE demonstrated to confirm that you are skilled in those areas?

Your Homework

  • Identify which critical players are allies and reach out. 

Setup coffee meetings or stop by their offices.  Do not – I repeat – DO NOT spend that time complaining about your situation.  Instead, get curious about their pet projects and initiatives.  Ask for advice on a difficult customer.  Find moments to sprinkle in a few stories of some of your recent wins. 

The purpose of these meetings is to remind the allies that 1) they like you and 2) you have a long reputation of being a strong performer despite recent developments.  It’s important to have as many friendly faces as possible when your name comes up at the big promotion planning meetings.

  • Commit to doing ONE thing this week that can strengthen your relationship with your manager.
  • Review your to-do list for the next 2 weeks.  What is something that you are already planning to do, that with higher visibility can be used to demonstrate an evaluation skill to your manager?

Get Working!