Reputation Crisis: Fear Sees Danger Everywhere

Reputation Crisis: Fear Sees Danger Everywhere

The letters and symbols of even the most brutal insults in social media battles are a sand bar washed away with the tides.

The most common paranoia of our time is the fear of losing one’s reputation. This fear afflicts both public figures and ordinary people whose communication circle, even in immense social networks, may be no wider than a few dozen actual or incidental acquaintances.

In most cases, the fear of loss of reputation is unjustified since episodic criticism from the outside does not always affect the reputational assets of the individual. Even a scathing attack does not usually result in a reputational crisis. Therefore, if something you see or hear in reference to yourself is disturbing, you need to stop and analyse the situation.

According to the methodological basis of reputation management, reputational risk is a set of risks that:

  • relate to non-fulfilment of duties, failure to achieve goals, or the result of external adverse influence;
  • cause the loss of trust of significant audiences.

The key points here are the failure to achieve goals and the importance of audiences. For example, if your mother-in-law spreads calumny about you and your husband responds by cancelling a trip to the Maldives, it is a reputational crisis. If the same information is transmitted by one neighbour to another neighbour and neither the husband nor the mother-in-law hears it, it is the whirring of a virtual fly on the periphery of consciousness, not more.

However, situations where reputational risks lead to reputational crises are not that uncommon. How should such a crisis be dealt with? First of all, one should delve into causes and seek to understand them. Is it about something fundamental or merely superficial ripples on the water? At the strategic level, it might really harm your reputation if, to continue the light-hearted example of the man and his mother above, you consistently failed to ask your mother-in-law about the holidays that are dear to her soul, you step on the tail of her beloved dog, or you do not conduct preventive and psychological work with your husband to treat his latent Oedipus complex. Accordingly, you can eliminate the threat to your well-being only by doing something on a practical level, and not relying solely on words.

The letters and symbols of even the most brutal insults in social media battles are a sand bar washed away with the tides. The Internet has an eternal memory, but this immeasurable archive will not cause a problem without maliciously motivated human intent and the application of resources. By strengthening your reputation through obtaining, cultivating and increasing the trust of significant target audiences, an attack can be reduced to the level of mild reputational risk that will not lead to a crisis. This is because a good name is anti-fragile – it has sufficient reputation to self-restore and self-perpetuate.

Moreover, if you fight not in words but in deeds, even in a deep crisis, you can find the potential for a breakthrough, even if only temporarily, by using the Aikido method. Recall the textbook story of the reaction of the press to the return to France of Napoleon Bonaparte after his exile on Elba.  Judging by the headlines of the day, the ex-emperor completely restored his reputation in two weeks: “The Corsican Monster Landed in the Bay of Juan,” “The Cannibal Goes to Grasse,” “The Usurper Entered Grenoble,” “Bonaparte Took Lyon,” “Napoleon Approaches Fontainebleau,” “His Imperial Majesty is Expected Today in His Faithful Paris.”

Therefore, it makes sense for every reputation-dependent person to look at the situation more realistically. First, let me remind you that, in reality, there are very few people who really want to harm your reputation. Since it is necessary to spend resources (power, time, money, and energy) for significant damage and possibly without benefit, few people will pursue this aim unless you are an oligarch with much to lose or an easily blackmailed celebrity. Second, you may lose something more than resources when fighting a losing battle over imagined reputational risk.

As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (a prominent humanitarian leader and liegeman of Mahatma Gandhi) aptly noted, “Our whole life revolves around money, relationships and reputation – these three things. And in the pursuit of them, we lose our health, and life begins to revolve around these four: money, relationships, reputation, and health. This causes us to run round and round in pursuit of these four things and finally become very unhappy. And when you become unhappy, you lose all four – what people think of as life!”

Thus, try not to fall into the trap of paranoia and morbid self-love and live life to the fullest. And if a real reputational crisis arises, meet it with honour, learn lessons and rise above it to become a higher level of being.

Forbes 2017