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January 13, 2014
Career Lessons from Bridgegate: Don’t be a Savior or a Martyr
 
Time and again we are witness to crises of major proportion that often are unbelievable and defy a thinking person's logic. Bridgegate is one such example. How on heaven's green earth would anybody with an ounce of intelligence think that they could get away with creating a traffic jam on a major artery between New York and New Jersey and not get caught? Moreover, how could a senior executive in government service on the scale of New Jersey be so dumb as to think this was a good move for the Governor? Retribution, I suggest, is a very dangerous business partner.
 
The career lessons learned from this debacle are rich, robust, and many. Here are just a few.
 
Don’t be a savior or a martyr. Be loyal but not stupid. Always have the boss's back, but not at the expense of your moral compass and personal integrity. Before you sacrifice yourself or try to save the day, let your conscience be your guide. The life you save may be your own.
 
Ethics rules. Personal ethics matter. Ethical behavior is de rigueur for any career and critical to career survival and growth. At the end of the day, all you have is your credibility. Stay honest.
 
Play fair. Politics in the office can never end well. It is poison in the workplace and will never help you get ahead. Instead, as we know from Bridgegate, you will very likely lose your head.
 
Retribution is a dangerous game. It never ends well and almost always comes back like a bad penny, harming the originator. Your career and good reputation are not worth the risk. If you have a beef, state it, discuss the dynamics, generate a solution, and get past it.
 
Fess up. If you crossed the line in the sand on ethics or even made a mild faux pas, admit, apologize, fix, and move on, all the wiser.
 
Run a tight ship. Manage your career well and with rigor. Follow your moral compass and always do the right thing. Be honest and open. One of the side benefits is you need never stretch the truth or orchestrate highway havoc. 

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Gerry Corbett is the PRJobCoach at prjobcoach.com and CEO of Redphlag LLC, a strategy consultancy. He has served four decades in senior communications roles at Fortune 100 firms and earlier in his career in aerospace and computer engineering with NASA. He has a B.A. in public relations from San Jose State University and is a member of the International Advertising Association, National Investor Relations Institute; Arthur Page Society, National Association of Science Writers, and International Coaching Federation.

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