Whether you accidentally sent your boss a NSFW email intended for your boyfriend, got a little too rowdy at the company picnic, or were caught in a flat-out lie (cough cough, Ryan Lochte), it's important to make efforts to repair your damaged professional reputation.

You may not have a million dollars worth of endorsements to lose, but these mistakes can still hurt your bank account in the form of raises, promotions, potential mentors, or even job leads later in your career. No one wants to stick their neck out for the guy who's getting called into HR the morning after a company event.

Below are five steps to perform some damage control for your personal brand.


Take a step back and consider what you did or said that's called your professional reputation into question. Who was involved, where did it happen, and who from your organization knows or has been affected by the incident?

Don't lie.

Thanks to the internet, social media, video cameras, and mobile devices, the chances of getting caught in a lie are highly likely. The worst thing you can do is blatantly lie, as Lochte has learned the hard way.

Take responsibility and apologize.

It's important to apologize to anyone who was directly involved or offended as a result of your mishap. This is particularly important if it affected your boss or staff. Whenever possible, do this face-to-face and in a conference room where you have privacy. Depending on what happened, you may want to loop in HR.

Move on.

Don't dwell on the issue or continue to bring it up with your coworkers. What's done is done. Make the necessary apologies and move forward. Learn how to recognize your triggers so you can avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.

Add value.

The best way to improve your reputation in the workplace is to demonstrate your professionalism going forward. Make it a goal to be a model employee and look for opportunities to add value to the company outside your regular duties.

It can take years to build your professional reputation but only one evening – after a few too many drinks – to do some serious damage. Don't let a silly mistake affect your advancement. You won't be able to repair the damage overnight, but if you can handle the situation quickly and tactfully, you'll be back on the right track.

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