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Personal Damage Control

So you've made a huge mistake on the job, and everybody knows. We feel your pain. We want to help

They're sending you a message, and it's hard not to miss. Suddenly you're no longer invited to development meetings. Those meaty assignments you normally received are routed elsewhere. Your peers don't respond to your calls and e-mails as quickly, if at all. And when you get an audience, your ideas are quickly dismissed. What's worse, your peers are picking up the vibe and keeping their distance. You're out of the loop. There are plenty of terms for it: blacklisted, banished, ostracized, frozen out, shunned, exiled, neutered. You're the sober and silent equivalent of Mel Gibson. Bottom line is you're no longer an insider with privileged status. You don't fit the plan, and the higher-ups have it out for you. And the reasons are plenty. Maybe you dropped the ball, costing your firm the cash cow who pointed the finger squarely at you as the culprit. Or you may have called out your superiors, displaying unimpeachable analysis and dreadful judgment. Fair or not, you became the fall guy. They put you in your place and made an example of you. Now you've lost everyone's confidence, and you can't hit the reset button. Of course, you have no intention of becoming a madogiwa-zoku, or more likely an addition to next month's labor report. You've experienced a loss of face. You've stained that reputation you built over so many years, opening yourself to doubt about your competence, if not your integrity. You've suffered through the denial, shame, and regret. Now it's time to quit hiding and go on the offensive. You're on a mission: to rehab your image, get back your self-respect, and redeem yourself. This is your comeback story. Alas, it won't be played out on a public stage under strobe lights and thundering amps. Instead, it'll be a quiet affair involving uncomfortable conversations, agonizing self-awareness, and unrelenting focus. Are you up to the task? Good. Click here to learn 10 ways to halt your downward spiral and earn your influence back.

Jeff Schmitt is an online columnist for Bloomberg Businessweek. He has spent 17 years in sales, marketing, project management, training, legal compliance, and recruiting. You can reach him via e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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