Wise Counsel

Wise Counseling

Desperate and Despicable -- Learning from preposterous posters.

Desperate and despicable, that is what I label people who use the misfortune of others to grab attention for themselves, their blogs or other forms of mis-informed content. If you have something compelling to say, then craft the message in a way that is respectable and responsible. This week cyberspace has witnessed its share of headlines that employ a celebrity's demise to gain traffic and notoriety. My message is stop and stop now. Here are five things that come to mind about this practice.

1. It is disrespectful. Imagine that your spouse, parent or child passed on and immediately was put in the spotlight, employing the ploy of lessons learned. Think hard. I think you will come to the same conclusion as me.

2. There is no value. in taking advantaged of the disadvantaged. If you think there is saving grace prove it. Otherwise refrain from the practice. Please!

3. Your reputation will suffer. Assuming you have a good reputation, your use of such a device to gain followers or notoriety is going to backfire at some point. People will be so disgusted by your lack of sincerity and sympathy, you will lose all credibility for an assumed one time gain.

4. It is just sad. and demonstrates lack of a moral compass. That someone would stoop so low to use the misfortune of others is a sad commentary on your own moral fabric or lack thereof.

5. An act of desperation. Yes you look desperate. It is an extreme act indicating you have no hope or confidence in yourself to say something of importance to followers and potential followers without using a fake device to seek attention that is not warranted.

Jargon is a help until it's not

Let me offer a modest defense of jargon.  The code phrase and acronyms we use and hear daily can help speed our understanding.  And that can be worth money and time.

Just as symbols and sirens help guide us on a journey or away from the rocks, the phrases freighted with meaning like "Amber Alert" or acronyms that impute authority like the FAA or, more recently, USMNT, help us better understand our world.

The danger is an over-reliance on these codes, particularly when we don't know whether those that can hear us have the same grounding.  As a result, jargon is no longer grease for our gears, but a bit of sand.  This is when jargon works to exclude and limit the conversation.

Some of this is unavoidable.  Very technical or specific professions develop a language that helps get the conversation moving.  Mostly technical but expanding into the social sciences, it is often hard for outsiders to locate the glossary.

When our approach to our professional lives begins to affect our personal ones, we can do something about.  We can work to speak is a more human and globally understandable way.

Who knows, if we do a good job personally, it may begin to influence our work lives.  If jargon arose as an aid to understanding and productivity, perhaps clarity can have the same effect.

Caught in crisis of other's making puts emphasis on culture

The current NSA-driven crisis offers few hand-holds for those caught in its draft.  It will continue to be driven by a cycle of government action and public reaction, potentially without any real end but exhaustion.  Everyone else is a bystander hoping to be judged not-guilty.

Telecommunications and Internet companies should refrain from drawing lines in the sand (which shift when courts rule they should) or circling the wagons (it is government that manages such interstate commerce) or even just saying no (a position can change every four or eight years). 

In this particular crisis, consumer confidence is built on a shared agreement that everything than can be done is being done.  It is the culture of a company that offers the best platform for this.  It is the performance of a company that offers the best evidence.

  • Be clear that legal requests must and will be met.  But assure consumers that all requests will get rigorous review.  If they are misdirected, they will be fought.

  • Add the number of requests the company gets to the quarterly earnings release so as to show it as a routine element of business operations.

  • Be clear that consumer data is well-protected, no matter who seeks unauthorized intrusion.

  • Be clear that consumer data drives better service and show some examples of how collecting a consumer’s data delivers value to that consumer.

  • Make data collection, retention, use, access and deletion practices clear in an accessible privacy policy.

Even without the current crisis, the increased use of data and consumer awareness of its collection make such practices prudent for any company.  Think Target, Neiman Marcus, Snapchat or any of the hundreds of other companies who show up in an online search for “data breach;” even Google shows up in that Google search.

It is understood that reputation runs a bit behind reality and right now the reality of public unrest over government data collection and use practices has hurt the reputation of telecommunications and Internet companies.  But by sticking to their principles, companies can change reality and improve their reputation.

Bridgegate: Don't be a Savior or 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 dangerous playmate.


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' 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 conscious 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.


Learn the lessons from history.  How many examples does the world need to benefit from faux pas of the past?  The books are littered with example after example of screw ups, indiscretions, bad behavior and man’s inhumanity to man.  Let’s start benefitting from lessons learned people.