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I work at one of local branches of large (over 2000 employees, branches in all major cities in country) IT company in East-central Europe. Branches are autonomous to certain degree, but all maintain one brand. Marketing, public relations, employer branding etc. is managed centrally from headquarters. Recently, the PR of company went downhill.

At beginning of the year, they had a controversial post on social media that was met with overall criticism and accusations of sexism. They handled situation very poorly, denying there is any problem at all and not acting on employees publicly insulting women who commented on the post. Eventually, they scraped further posts in the series, which I understand as silent agreement with critics.

Fast forward to present day, many people are leaving the branch where I work. Another team in my area of expertise lost half of members in just three months. Rumor over the city is that my employer does not even try to stop people from leaving, that payment is low and that working conditions are poor. Part of that rumor is factually correct, part is bad mouthing.

Now, I usually try to do my own thing and distance myself from social pressure. However, I am worried that staying with that company for much longer might hurt my future career; that prospective employers will project their bad opinion about this company on me personally.

Are these worries well founded? What are the risks of staying with company that has very bad PR, if any?

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    I find it unlikely that many people are leaving just because of one post on social media. It's possible but I think your comments about low pay and working conditions are the real reason. – user69461 May 22 '17 at 1:25
  • I suspect the company is question is Audi. They had an overtly sexist commercial and when social media called them out on it, they insulted the women saying they get paid less because they were paid appropriately for their role. Dealerships have low salaries in general. Unless you're a top salesmen. – Jack May 22 '17 at 4:45
  • @tima I understand it could be read this way, but I didn't mean to imply that social media post is the reason (especially the only reason!) of people leaving. I see this as two independent events, both of which contribute to my employer's bad reputation. – user70347 May 22 '17 at 20:18
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Yes, there are risks. But the bigger potential problem does not come from people projecting their opinion about the company on you when you're looking for a new job, since you seem to be quite far removed from the cause of the bad PR.

The bigger potential problem comes from these factors:

  1. Given the large number of people choosing to leave within a short period of time, it's likely that at least some of the company's best people are among those leaving. This is because the most capable people are usually the ones with highest chance of finding new job quickly. Some of those who haven't left may also want to leave, just haven't found a new job yet.
  2. If your workplace becomes an unpopular choice for job seekers due to combination of actual downsides, rumors, and recent PR disaster, the best candidates are less likely to seek employment there. Combined with #1, this means the overall quality of personnel will gradually decrease, resulting in more problems in the workplace (e.g. low-quality work, management incompetence)
  3. Due to above factors, at some point management may decide to either start canceling various plans, or try to execute plans without sufficient number of people with needed capability. The first can lead to layoffs, the second to more workplace annoyances.

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Well, the truth is people view things the way they view things. So will it affect things? Probably, even if it shouldn't. If you want to and have the chance to swap to somewhere else then do that, but if you want to stay then I would look at putting "how you are improving the company" into your resume and interviewing so that they will see "some people there screwed up, but you stayed to help clean up". This will hopefully combat any "bad vibes" they feel at seeing your resume reference to the company in question.

Totally up to you on which way you want your career to go, but I think there are still options in either path.

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Bad PR has a decent chance of leading to an apology or just blowing over and being forgotten. Many companies have gone through some PR which seemed really bad at the time but which most people probably wouldn't even remember a few months later. It probably also seems a lot worse from the inside of the company. How many PR stories can you remember (in detail) for any company from more than 6 months ago? There's a lot of news, people forget quickly.

Depending on the severity of the bad PR, I might consider it a bad sign if a prospective employee were to want to jump ship right away over it. No-one wants to end up in a PR nightmare, but it does happen, so I wouldn't be keen to hire someone who will overreact to it. So, at the very least, you may want to consider avoiding using bad PR as a reason for leaving.

Leaving would also mean you have to go through a job search at the peak of the bad PR, when it's still fresh in everyone's mind. While you can condemn it, there will still be that association in the interviewers mind, and it's probably not going to be a positive one.

If, (partly or fully) due to bad PR, the company's stock prices are plummeting to a point where liquidation is a reasonable option, it's a different story - that's not leaving due to bad PR, but rather job security.

If there has been enough severe incidents or the incidents came directly from upper management (not handling something poorly, but being the cause of it), that would also be a more justifiable reason for leaving.

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