There are a number of examples in the news currently of people whose legacy has recently changed from positive to negative. The removal of the Joe Paterno statue at Penn State is one that shows how poor decisions can wipe out years of positive acts. Paterno will now be remembered more for the scandal surrounding the university and less about wins and losses of a football team.
Another example is the CEO of Yahoo who misrepresented his educational credentials. This one is a more common scenario and usually has less recourse. I have even heard many suggest that “fluffing” the resume is an accepted practice in the workforce and that recruiters expect it. While recruiters may actually expect it, it doesn’t mean it is an accepted practice. The “everybody does it” argument in business is flawed.
There are times when many of us find ourselves in critical moments and may not even realize the significance of the moment and the choice we are about to make. There are so many justifications one can find to do the wrong thing. I often hear employees make statements about their value in organizations. Top performers (and sometimes not so top performers) often develop a sense of ego that makes them feel as though they are irreplaceable and can get away with anything because the organization cannot function without their presence. This sense of ego drives poor decisions and sometimes decisions that change their legacy.
For many, the ramifications of the choice may only be a lost job; they may be able to move to a different company or industry and start over. Regardless, at some level their legacy has changed.
Use these situations as an example. Do a self-analysis. And always choose well. Your legacy may depend on it.
For more resources, See the Human Resources library.