Dear J.T. & Dale: I was let go from my last job for making a comment that a female co-worker took as harassment. I wasn’t convicted of a crime, but it sure feels that way. I’ve had six job interviews, and no matter how I try to explain what happened, I can tell it’s costing me the job. What should I say after I was fired for harassment? – “Tim”
DALE: This is a case where the minute you start to explain, you’ve lost. Here’s the problem: If someone at a company hires you despite knowing that you were fired for sexual harassment and then you harass one of the employees, he or she is guilty of ignoring the danger. (I know how it must hurt to be “the danger” in that sentence, but that’s how they see it.) That’s why you can’t even start the harassment conversation.
J.T.: You’re proposing that he just lie and hope for the best?
DALE: He’s got to find a better truth. As he says, he was NOT convicted of any crime. Further, I’ll take his word that he did not harass anyone. So, what does that make it? A dispute with a co-worker. Perhaps, in retrospect, she was out to undermine him, and management was forced to take sides. That’s a useful truth. And unless your old employer is telling people you were fired for sexual harassment (highly unlikely), then that’s a truth that will set you free.
J.T.: Whenever you’re fired, your next employer wants to see, hear, and truly feel that you have learned from the experience. If you aren’t coming across as remorseful, then you are sending the message that you don’t think you did anything wrong, and that means you’re likely to do it again. Instead, let them know that you know you need to be a model of professionalism in your next role.
In fact, you’ll need to emphasize that the employer who takes you on will get the best-ever employee because you’ll be working hard to rebuild your reputation. In short, they have to see a real upside to hiring you, and that is your desire to work hard for them to make up for what has happened. If you can’t do that, you will continue to find employers passing on you as a candidate.
Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at [email protected] or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
Fired harassment image from Shutterstock