All the controversy coming out of the CNN piece on Doctors Deborah Birx, et al, on their insights (hind sights) on the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID crisis raises the question most of us deal with in the workplace: How much pushback can you give the boss?
Dr. Anthony Fauci is the media darling because he seemed ready to push back against a president known for bullying anyone who did not stay in tune with the official cheers for the leader. This was because he was the hardest one of the team of medical advisors to fire, and he had a better reputation than Trump from way back.
Dr. Birx is being criticized by some for not saying then what she is saying on the record now that the worst is over — the worst of the fiasco in the White House; the virus is still playing games with us because we are an impatient, undisciplined, spoiled and entitled culture, but that’s just my opinion.
But in fairness to her and anyone else in the Trump upper echelons, the choices were limited. You could speak up and be sent home with a publicly humiliating tweet or bite your tongue and hope that you could outwit the witless.
The problem with that strategy was that it’s a little like trying to reason with a virus: Getting Trump to deal with reality was akin to Trump’s attempts to create reality out of his fantasies. Public relations only goes so far, and then the sales department is done, and the service department is on the spot.
Most of us have been in a situation at work where expectations have been laid on us without enough research by the higher-ups. You don’t have to be middle management or some junior tycoon scrambling up a career ladder to find yourself hanging out there with no way but down.
Birx and Fauci were following the science. Other medical “experts” were there to whistle the tune and sing the chorus for the Trump love song to himself. It was like someone promised delivery by next week without checking with the shipping clerk’s calendar. Or the foreman said the hole would be dug by Friday even though the sound of shovel on boulder was an ominous warning bell that there might be complications and delays.
Unrealistic expectations can be caused by poor planning, faulty research, unforeseen circumstances of all kinds. The ones that are unforgivable are those that are created on purpose for the arrogant reason, “Because I can.”
You see a lot of it in politics and corporate suites.
Because we can is made possible by position of power and/or money. A client with lots of money demands delivery of goods or services on an unrealistic timetable because they know their business is cherished. Deliver or lose the business. Big customers shove smaller clients into delays while the big boys are taken care of.
That is an essential definition of corruption. “Because I can, because I said so, because I am the boss and you have no power and if you want your job you’ll deliver” – all of that leads to eventual failure; collapse of a business, product, service, and the credibility of anyone associated with it.
Such strategies require either collaboration or loyalty from down-line workers, or in the case of politics, the public. People buy in because of misplaced faith or some sense of duty — or just fear of losing their job, their status, their friends. The sycophant tells the boss what he wants to hear, who lies for him.
The most valuable employee is the one who brings a box to work their first day on the job. The box can be empty. It is there for that day when personal integrity is on the line; when the job you can be proud of doing becomes something that would bring you shame.
What the world needs are more “advisors” and other key people who bring a box to work on their first day and are willing to pack it up and go home when their talents are ignored, and their loyalty is abused.
Dean Minnich writes on Thursdays. Email him at email@example.com.