Welcome to the strange new world of online shaming . . . where no misdeed goes unpunished, forgiveness is a dirty word, and measured response is an antiquated concept. And it’s a world that can be especially dangerous to financial advisors whose mistakes, imagined or real, can motivate clients to wage online vendettas.
Who knew it would come to this? In today’s social-media era, our reputation consists of what people say about us online. When friends, colleagues, and strangers rave about us—liking our posts, sharing our content, tweeting our exploits—then our reputations soar. But when people tear us down, either because of something we’ve done or because of the malicious words of others, then our reputations can implode, wrecking havoc on our lives, both online and off.
In today’s Internet age, reputation crises are common. On Facebook, hardly a day goes by without newsfeeds buzzing about a celebrity, sports figure, or politician making a gaffe and then apologizing about it. When these mistakes go viral, they enter the Internet’s permanent “memory” and become easily accessible to the public via Google (or other search engine).
After being convicted several years ago for selling an annuity to a woman later diagnosed with dementia, Glenn Neasham faced a reputation crisis. He probably didn’t need to do much analysis to know his good name had been seriously tarnished. But for other advisors with negative content online, as well as for professionals in other fields, a thorough assessment is the first step in reputation recovery.
The case of Glenn Neasham is instructive. The California financial advisor was convicted of theft for selling an annuity to an 83-year-old woman who later was diagnosed with dementia. Although an appellate court eventually overturned his conviction and California’s Supreme Court upheld the reversal, Neasham’s reputation suffered incalculable harm.
In a prior article, we wrote about the “perfect storm” of consumer preferences, technology advances, and regulatory enabling that will unleash an online flood of financial business professional reviews. If this got your attention, you may want to try your hand at Yelp.
Transparency is our thing at the National Ethics Association. But some gestures and words are better left unexpressed. Consider the case of Johnny Manziel, AKA “Johnny Football.”
Ever been slammed in an online review? How did you react—with calm professionalism or with angry indignation? And did you use the review as an opportunity to improve your business or merely to defend your ego?
Most people know what sexual harassment is. They know that behaving in a sexual manner toward someone they work with—typically someone who doesn’t want that attention—is unethical and illegal. And responsible business owners, managers, and even politicians know it’s wrong to make suggestive comments to their employees, peers, and supporters, let alone touch them inappropriately.
Once upon a time, your business reputation resulted mainly from your own actions and words—and those of your customers. But that’s an old story. Today, business reputation also hinges on the behavior of your employees. And when their words or deeds are insulting, harassing, or demeaning—and begin to replicate virally on social media—watch out!