From emails disclosed in January, we learned that in September 2013, these individuals plotted to close two of three lanes leading from Fort Lee, N.J. to the George Washington Bridge. The reason? Apparently, to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee. Once the incident began to garner news headlines, dubbed as the “Bridgegate Scandal,” Gov. Christie claimed he knew nothing of the traffic tie-up until he learned it from the media.
As a result, Manhattan-bound traffic crawled – for four days! We’re usually willing to forgive a leader who sincerely apologizes and tries to make amends. So why do we harbor doubts about Christie’s mea culpa?
1. The Governor failed to take personal responsibility for the traffic disaster. Instead of stating, “I made mistakes,” he said, “Mistakes were made.”
2. He justified firing someone responsible for the disaster by stating she lied to him, not because she helped plan the tie-up.
3. Christie expressed regret for the inconvenience caused to travelers, but failed to acknowledge the enormity of the harm done.
4. The Governor stalled: Instead of promptly investigating the fiasco himself, it took investigators and the media months to uncover correspondence that incriminated several of his political aides.
5. Did Christie really make amends? Well, yes. He apologized in person to the Mayor and residents of Fort Lee. But was that enough? I’m unsure.
So. . . what makes for a credible apology? There are several factors that one should consider when determining a good apology:
– Responsibility for specific behavior is claimed
– The harm caused is acknowledged
– Regret is expressed
– Amends are offered, when possible
And the person apologizing does so early, does it himself, and tells it all. Christie’s apology came up short on all counts. What the Governor might have said: “I’m sorry. I should have intervened the minute I heard about the delay at the bridge. There’s no excuse for this to have lasted four days. I dropped the ball.”
He could have named the pain: “People lost wages by being late, children were left waiting, businesses were hurt. I promise, this will never happen again on my watch.”
Two of the most powerful words in any language are, “I’m sorry.” Why are they so hard to say?
© Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.