The New Jersey politico was caught sunbathing on a beach he closed to the public
Not long after the closure of a bridge totaled his presidential ambitions and made him the nation’s least popular governor, Chris Christie has stepped in it again. The New Jersey governor was caught over Independence Day weekend by an NJ Advance Media photographer suntanning with his family on a beach that Christie recently ordered closed as part of a state government shutdown.
The charges of hypocrisy came quick, but Christie and his embattled administration were blasé. At a news conference shortly after the photos were taken, the governor denied having sunbathed and scolded a reporter who tried to ask a followup. When his spokesperson later learnt that there were photos of Christie’s Sunday afternoon, the rep said that the gov didn’t get any sun because he had a hat on. Christie also told reporters that if they wanted to enjoy his perks— the beach is close to a state-owned residence— they should consider running for governor.
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Of course, Christie isn’t bothered by the brouhaha. He’s prohibited by state law from running for a third consecutive term and has said that he doesn’t care about his record low approval ratings. His administration has also taken to trolling people who ask questions they don’t like.
In a corporate setting however, flaunting your perks when people are being asked to sacrifice is a strict no-no. “If you ask people to do something for the good for the company, that means cuts across the board,” says Laura MacLeod of the Inside Out Project. “If you escape, people are going to ask where your sacrifice is.” Indeed, that’s a model embodied by Jen-Hsun Huang who as chief executive of chip maker Nvidia voluntarily reduced his salary to $1 when his company was being restructured.
That said, if the faux pas has been committed, it’s possible to recover. The thing to do: apologize. “Say you’re sorry and that you understand why people are upset and why you won’t do it again,” says MacLeod. “People appreciate when you acknowledge you’re a human being.” MacLeod also thinks it’s possible to come out looking good from such encounters. “It contributes to a culture that’s more transparent and open, so people will feel they don’t have to cover up” their own mistakes, she adds.
Even if you’re not the one flashing your perks, it may be appropriate to privately confer with your peers when they do. “Ask them how they can justify the perk and then say silent,” says Debra Benton, co-author of “The Leadership Mind Switch,” who recalls an associate fretting about taking a corporate jet after budget cuts led to junior staff being fired.
She thinks questioning could elicit a response that will either help you rationalize why they’re making use of certain privileges, or force your counterpart into being more sensitive. “It doesn’t mean you’ll change the course but maybe they just got caught up in the moment,” Benton says.
Experts say there’s only one scenario in which it’s OK to talk about your perks and that’s in a job interview where you’re hoping to attract someone. “But that’s not flaunting, which only irritates people,” MacLeod says.
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