Even if innocent, execs under investigation should find new work, experts say

Prompted by the sudden dismissal of Microsoft's Stuart Scott, CIO magazine examines the topic of what a high-ranking corporate executive should do when he or she comes under suspicion of wrongdoing and an investigation begins.

In a word: run.

Executives under internal investigation should seek separation, not a fight, say experts.

Once you're under investigation, it becomes virtually impossible to continue in a corporate leadership role like that of a CIO, experts say. In fact, calling a lawyer, seeking a separation agreement from your current employer and moving on to a new role often represents an executive's best option - whether or not there was wrongdoing involved.

Seems like reasonable advice for the guilty, but it must be awfully hard to swallow for the wrongly accused.

Moreover, given the legal obligations that corporations have to investigate claims of discrimination and sexual harassment, the number of executive departures could prove quite high in a large organization whose members took this advice to heart. The price seems steep both for the company and those falsely accused.

Personally, I'd be inclined to stand and fight, although I realize that's easy to say in the abstract.

Either way, the dilemma harkens back to a famous quote from Raymond Donovan, U.S. secretary of labor during the Reagan Administration. After being acquitted of corruption charges, Donovan said: "Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?"

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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