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Bad things happen to good people.

Some times those bad things happen through no fault of the good person.

There are also times when good people make bad — very bad — decisions that are magnified into epic, career limiting status, especially when the original error is compounded by bad  judgment in trying to alleviate public scrutiny.

online buzzThis type of situation when disclosed or discovered can frequently result in a rash of newspaper stories chronicling the mistake and the ill effects of the subsequent bad judgment, especially when it involves a lot of money and the loss of jobs.  That combination is the gasoline for a major career bonfire.

Newspaper stories regarding an executive screw up tend to draw a lot of attention, especially if it concerns a business that is near and dear to the hearts of the community and even more so when numerous employees lose their jobs and the “guilty” executive walks away with a very large check as pert of the severance agreement.

While all healthcare still tends to be very much a local enterprise, news stories about such executive missteps are anything but local thanks to Google and other Internet search engines.  Google can connect this sort of bad news from a small city in New York, where the event occurred, to another city on the West Coast where the executive is pursuing a similar job in the flash of a key stroke, 24 hours per day.

Making a mistake, even a big mistake and then exercising bad judgment in trying to cover it up or blame someone else, does not make that executive a bad person.  Nor should they be banned from the industry forever unless a felony charge was levied.  But this career upset and the subsequent news coverage cannot be glossed over with a nice resume and some friendly references and with the hope that no one will notice.

Candidates in this category of career train wreck need to stop, take a deep breath and plot a transition strategy that does not involve immediately seeking another job.  Bad news travels fast.  Bad news captured by Internet search engines travels far. Candidates can no longer assume that their misfortune will be left behind in New York.  It is even a bigger mistake for this executive to extol his commitment to leadership excellence and commitment to transparency in interviews but fail to mention the full details of his misadventures, especially if he left behind disgruntled employees with pink slips.

The longer you allow a mistake to fester, the longer a leader delays in being really transparent, the worse it will look to the inquiring minds of the Fourth Estate who can sometimes take an unfortunate series of events and blow them into a scandal that fuels the fires of community anger and discontent.

Angry former employees with a computer and an internet connection are trouble, and no outplacement consultant can stop this dynamic or erase the numerous links to news stories.  They might minimize it but they cannot cover it up.