by Jana Schilder
Innocent until proven guilty. That’s the foundation of Canada’s legal system. Yet as Senator Patrick Brazeau was taken away last week in handcuffs with the television cameras rolling, the public-at-large made a very different decision.
In fact, not only the public-at-large, but also Conservative Party. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself had already made a judgment call and kicked Brazeau out of the Conservative caucus. Senator Brazeau has been charged with assault and sexual assault and is now on a paid leave of absence from the Senate. The Conservative Party and the public have all but tried Brazeau already and the verdict is not good.
The court of public opinion is frequently more powerful than a court of law. In a court of law, the rules are clear. In the court of public opinion, the rules are more murky.
But one thing remains true: your reputation is your most important business asset. Your personal reputation, your department’s reputation, and your company’s reputation.
Even countries have reputations. The reputations of North Korea, Nigeria, and Nicaragua are not good. Hmmm. The letter “N” is getting a bad reputation.
The point is this: you must always work on building your reputation. Think of reputation as making regular deposits to the Bank of Good Will. You have flexible employee programs. You donate money for medical research that benefits all. You sponsor the little league to say that fitness is important, and to have a presence in the local community.
A big part of Senator Brazeau’s problem is that he has not been making regular deposits to the Bank of Good Will. Quite the other way. During the past five years, he has pioneered the “serial scandal” genre: collecting two 6-figure salaries, sexual assault charges, allegations of misappropriation of funds designated for aboriginal health and heavy drinking. And he didn’t stop there: he called a Canadian Press reporter the B-word when she wrote an article about his poor attendance record as a Senator.
Let’s just say Brazeau is no choir boy.
Here’s the bottom line: he has made no deposits to the Bank of Good Will. And now, he needs a very large withdrawal from the media and the public-at-large to cut him some slack. Alas, the deposit box is not only empty, the bank is calling in the loan.