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Clean Your Own Closet

Clear away debris that blocks your advancement

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in Workplace Communication

A dark past can come back to haunt you when you’re vying for a promotion. If you don’t get rid of the skeletons in your closet, you put your reputation on the line and risk exposure.

We’re not saying that you should volunteer every minor transgression you’ve ever made. That would needlessly tarnish your image. Also beware of resorting to vague allusions to mistakes rather than squarely leveling with your boss.

So why speak up at all? If you’re trying to make your best case for rapid advancement, it’s wise to acknowledge the bad with the good—before someone beats you to it. And here’s another reason to act now rather than wait and see if you nab the promotion: You have a golden opportunity to enhance your integrity.

Here’s how to cleanse your conscience while enhancing your career prospects:

Link past with present. Don’t just admit an error and pretend everything’s fine. Tell your boss that you’ve gained a valuable lesson.

If you’ve misled your employer about your educational credentials, for instance, explain that your early misdeeds reflected your poor judgment at the time—and that now you’ve matured.

Use “what matters most” phrases. When discussing your past mistakes, admit fault while reinforcing your strengths. Say, “While I’m disappointed in myself, what matters most is that I’m now more aware than ever of the need to overcome adversity with honor and never give up.”

This way, you position yourself as a fighter—the kind of resilient, hardcharging leader who has survived some blunders and hard knocks.

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