Working Back from Reputation Damage with Compassionate Behavior
Subtle, humble correction of behavior is a wise, skillful response in crisis management to restore or slowly reconstruct reputation.
Kevin Hart is doing just that now. The comedian and actor has been picked to host the Muscular Dystrophy telethon and has said he wants to make it a regular appearance. He’s calling his famous connections and asking them to appear on the program or “…if you can’t make it, then you’re donating,” he told Variety Magazine.
Hart is not just showing up. He’s working to make it successful, wanting to make it special and provide value for the mission and human need. It looks good.
Why is this important outside of it being compassionate to people in need?
If you don’t remember, Hart was scheduled to host the Oscars in 2019 yet was exposed, criticized and mocked over unkind jokes he made on Twitter about ten years prior about people who are gay.
It hurt his reputation and you could discern that the blowback hurt him emotionally. He was defensive and felt persecuted. He did choose to eventually apologize yet it was delayed (never smart) and lower quality (another poor decision).
Hart absorbed the figurative punches and has proven not radioactive in reputation. His career is still alive. Hart is showing resiliency. Now it’s time to continue to momentum. Keep climbing.
He seems appreciative and has communicated with excitement about his new opportunity. He genuinely appear ready to serve people, showing the compassion many believe he didn’t show in his younger days
“I’m excited to put up a nice new reason for more hope, not that there isn’t hope, but more hope and understanding that things are going to get better, that they’re loved and that they’re not forgotten about,” Hart said to Variety.
This doesn’t look to be merely an act of impression management. Hart is showing his humanity. That’s what critics needed to see and that’s what potential employers wanted to see as well so Hart would not be a risk to their brand well being.
In a reputation crisis, there is often the tendency of the media and public to engage in “splitting,” which is when we judge people as “all good” or “all bad” based on our impressions of their communication and other behavior. It’s a hard place to be when you get “split” on and are seen as all bad.
Hart has accepted that he has to “do work” now, do what is necessary to overcome the damage to his reputation. That’s often a long, hard road. Some won’t forgive, others will. All one can do is what is socially expected — be humble, be socially aware, compassionate and don’t repeat your errors.
Hart’s work with the MD telethon doesn’t solve all problems in all minds yet it is a step forward to reveal his humanity, build trust and change to some degree a narrative about his name that was stained.
“To err is nature,” George Washington once communicated, “to rectify is glory.”
Hart’s past transgressions will require some heavy lifting in the form of showing a segment of the population that he learned from his errors and is less defensive about his past behavior. In time, he might be more receptive to less ego and more regret.
For now, however, he is subtly moving forward and if he doesn’t slip again with his communication, the damage to his reputation will continue to heal.
Michael Toebe is a reputation specialist who helps individuals and organizations more accurately analyze and wisely, successfully respond in disputes, ongoing conflicts, negotiation and professional and personal crisis. He has contributed written analysis and advisory for Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member, Corporate Compliance Insights, Physicians Practice, New York Law Journal and Training Industry. He writes Red Diamonds Essays and Reputation Specialist Essays, both on Medium, voices the short-segment Red Diamonds Podcast and publishes on LinkedIn and beBee.