Howard is regional director at Michael Page Hong Kong and oversees a number of disciplines including sales, marketing, digital, procurement & supply chain, retail & sourcing, finance, and HR.
How to avoid backlash from a workplace dispute involving a prior acquaintance
I have been working in my present job for just over a year, having been brought in by my department manager, with whom I had previously worked in another job. Unfortunately, this manager departed under a cloud a few weeks ago and is instigating legal proceedings against the company.
While I still have the utmost respect for him, I am also concerned that I will be identified with this individual in the eyes of senior management. What is the best course of action to take so as to emerge unscathed from this whole affair?
It is inevitable that we will at some point in our careers face a tricky situation like this. However, it may be some comfort to you that, judging from what you have written, it looks like the only relationship you have with your previous department manager is that he brought you to your present company, and nothing else.
Therefore, we do not see any legal proceedings there might be involving your former manager having any direct impact on you. It appears to be a separate issue from your actual work. In this sense, you do not have any cause for concern as long as you remain focused on your performance in the office and deliver the desired results on all projects.
That said, this is a good time to build your personal image in the company, to prove that you are able to function in your professional capacity despite ongoing distractions in the workplace.
You may still be concerned for your former manager given both of you have a long history of working together. By all means keep in touch with him if you wish and ask after his general well-being but try to distance yourself from the actual legal affairs, which are, after all, not anything to do with you.
In this mature employment landscape, it is very unlikely that the senior management would associate you with the ongoing legal investigations. However, if this arises as a topic of discussion, just tell the truth – that you had no prior information about the matter and that you were not in any way involved.
In the past year at your current company, you will have the opportunity to work with teammates or other colleagues who will, no doubt, know you reasonably well and be in a good position to attest to your professional character. You should remember that you can also reach out to them for testimonials if really necessary.
Lastly, if your employer has in-house counsellors or HR professionals in place who can help address your situation, it would be a good idea to approach them about the matter.
They will be more than familiar with your company’s employee policies and can act as a sound third-party advisor if you are in any way concerned.