One of my readers had something horrible happen to her: a competitor hacked her LinkedIn account and then sent nasty messages to a bunch of her contacts. To make it even more difficult, after sending the messages, the hacker deleted the messages so my poor reader can't tell who got a nasty message and who didn't. If the person doesn't respond, she may never know. She asked me "How do I undo the damage to my professional reputation?"
While I like to think that most people are good people (and I do believe this) there are definitely a few bad apples who will stop at nothing to destroy someone else.If you run afoul of such a person, heaven help you.
But, is this woman's professional reputation destroyed? Probably not. Here's what you should do to start to undo the damage an enemy can make.
Consider Your Reputation Before The Attack
If you were an honest, kind, trustworthy person yesterday and you're an honest, kind trustworthy person today, it's unlikely that people will believe you sent the horrible messages they received. If, on the other hand, you've always been a sketchy jerk who used people when you could and were only nice when it benefited you, then you're in big trouble.
Despite the fact that we live in a world where perfect strangers will crucify you for a tweet, people are more forgiving of someone they actually know. So, assuming you're a good person, most will know this is not in your character and figure out that something is up.
Face the Damage Head On
In this situation, I would write an update on LinkedIn--just in their updates section and not a full formal post. Why? Because what you want to write is short and sweet, not a long drawn out essay about horrible people. Write something like this:
Two days ago, someone hacked into my LinkedIn account. While pretending to be me, this person sent horrible messages to many of my cherished business associates.
Please know, I value every one of you and I would never send such messages. If you were unfortunate enough to receive one, I apologize. I have changed my password and hope that this incident is behind me.
If you have any concerns, please reach out to me. I would hate to have someone suffering because of an angry troll.
Now, I give permission for anyone who needs this note to copy and paste it, but I also recommend that you edit it to be more your style. I'm a little stuffy here, and if you are, great. If not, well, then lighten it up a bit.
Once you've posted this as an update, ask four or five friends to comment and like your post. Why? Because the more comments and likes an update has, the more people see it. The more people see it, the better your message will spread.
You may not know the name of everyone who received a nasty-gram from your enemy, but there are people in your LinkedIn contacts who are more critical to your success than others. Former and current bosses, for instance. You'll need these people's references when you want to change jobs. So message each one of these critical people individually.
Unlike your update blast, these messages need to be personalized. This will take an inordinate amount of time, and I'm sorry about this. You'll want to use your general blast as a guide, and then personalize it. Here's a suggestion:
Someone hacked my LinkedIn account and sent inappropriate messages to many of my contacts under my name. I hope you were not on the receiving end of one of these messages.
If you were, please know I would never say anything rude to you. I value the time I spent working for you. Without your guidance, I never would have learned how to take control of a contentious meeting or how to write proposals that win accounts.
Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you, and once again, I apologize if you were on the receiving end of a message from the hacker.
You can't count on everybody seeing your update, so you won't want to skip this step. And please get on this as soon as possible.
Continue to Be Awesome
The best revenge, they say, is living well. Don't let this horrible person get you down. Chances are, with your prompt attention you'll undo most of the damage. Your enemy, on the other hand, will still be wallowing in her misery.
Hold your head high. Know you did nothing wrong. Be prepared for someone unexpected to confront you about this, but otherwise, keep going forward with your life and your career.
Have a problem employee, problem manager or a people management question? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.