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Now that the Brian Williams saga has died down a little bit, it’s a great time to reflect on what we can learn from his embellished mistakes lies. It would be very easy to look at it from a distance, participate in the public shaming, share memes and think that it has nothing to do with us, but we’d be wrong because it has everything to do with us. It could also happen to us. A little white lie here, a little stretching the true there…we could all be Brian Williams, with a smaller paycheck.

So here’s what we’d be wise to remind ourselves: a few professional ethical lines we should never cross:

1. The end does not in fact, justify the means. 

You don’t need to tell me twice about the importance of outcomes. I work in the same industry as Mr. Williams where ratings, page views, hits, clicks, trends and people talking about your stories, is (partially) how you are judged. But in this industry and in any industry, you cannot allow yourself to be so focused on the end goals that you do not take into account how you are going about to achieve them.

2. Losing our credibility in the long-term is not worth any short-term gains. 

You may change jobs and careers multiple times throughout your life, or you may not. But wherever you go and whatever you do, your reputation will follow. The sad part is that Brian Williams was to many, one of the last few journalists that the public respected. And the sad part about losing credibility in such a grave way is that right or wrong, it overshadows all the good you’ve done.  As the African proverb goes, “A good name is better than gold.”

3. Your ethical codes should not be easily breakable. 

5 Embellishments You Should Never Tell In The Workplace  was originally published on

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