Is Gov. Chris Christie lying when he says he had absolutely no personal involvement with the acts of political retribution that lead to “Bridgegate”?
I don’t know.
The person I’ve tasked with finding out the truth about the matter was supposed to be here an hour ago with the facts, but hasn’t yet arrived. Apparently, she’s tied up in a monster traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge.
And what does it matter, anyway? Forget Christie. There is another tragically overweight person whose honesty and integrity is a matter of vital concern to us. This is a person on whom people depend and trust with their lives and their livelihoods.
That’s right, friend. I’m talking about you.
Having watched Christie turn and burn on the spit — note to self: be sure to order an extra large turkey next Thanksgiving — I found myself wondering how often we average Joes and Janes find ourselves in a position where we have to decide whether or not to prevaricate.
Does lying at work represent a serious break in trust, or is it just something we all do to keep the wheels of commerce running smoothly?
For someone like you, this is not an abstract issue. With your history of major screw-ups and downright disasters, it is inevitable that you will often find yourself in a situation where you are held responsible for a situation that could be totally terminal to your company’s profits, if not its very survival.
Considering the fault in the matter is likely to be yours, thanks to that pure streak of incompetence for which you are so famous, what do you do?
You lie, of course. If the situation is sufficiently serious, adding a layer of dishonesty to the disaster will not make an appreciable difference. You’re fired if you lie. You’re fired if you don’t. But there’s another reason to choose the path of untruth.
You might be an incompetent hack, but your boss is a pathetic jerk. The fact that he even has to ask if the fault is yours shows how dimwitted this dimwit actually is. To speak truth to such a critically impaired person is an act of cruelty. It’s like running into a nursery school at Christmas and telling the little children that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. (Sorry, residents of New Jersey, if I’ve shocked you with the 411 on Santa. I should have posted a spoiler alert.)
OK, Bob, you say. It makes sense to lie when the situation could result in termination of your employment, or your employer, but what about those “little white lies,” like calling in sick when you’re actually healthy or blaming a co-worker when your supervisor’s Jaguar goes missing?
You could probably tell the truth, and escape with only a mild flaying, but doing the right thing in these cases is definitely wrong. By lying over trivial matters, you are polishing your skills as a prevaricator. This is an important part of your career-training program, and will leave you better prepared to lie like a rug when you are promoted to supervisor, manager or governor.
Another situation in which lying at work is definitely acceptable is when telling the truth will harm a beloved co-worker. Say, you are invited to a high-level meeting on Mahogany Row, where you learn that your co-worker is about to be fired. Or, somewhat more likely, say that you are hiding behind a file cabinet when the meeting takes place, and you just happen to hear that your co-worker will soon be getting the ax.
You could certainly rush to tell your unfortunate colleague the so-called truth, but what will you have achieved? You will have made a dear, work friend nervous and afraid, which might force him to do something desperate to preserve his position, like reporting to the CEO that the high-priced online marketing firm you have been paying thousands of dollars a quarter to manage your company’s social media campaign is actually your 12-year-old nephew and his Xbox.
Much better to lie a little and let your co-worker know that the only thing ahead of him is a big fat promotion and a big fat raise to go with it. Then, when the ax finally falls, he’ll be so shocked and angry that no one will believe a word he says.
Just be sure to lie about your lying to your nephew. In a critical business situation, those 12-year-olds can be vicious.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com.