July 28, 2003

"You'll Never Be Able to Trust Your Staff..."

Almost as an afterthought to my post after midnight this morning, Avedon Carol blogs an Op-Ed piece from yesterday's Washington Post by Joe Robinson on the incredible shrinking vacation of the American worker.

Avedon has never been slow to offer her own opinion. Here is part of her response to and amplification of Robinson's points:

Create a friendly environment and get employees who are willing to put out that bit of extra effort for you, work to a higher standard rather than just work to rule; create an adversarial environment and you'll have a worforce made up of exactly that: your adversaries. Which, among other things, means they will be less likely to waste an erg of their energy correcting (or admitting to) mistakes, or staying a few minutes late to make sure the last t is crossed and the last i is dotted. It also means you'll probably have to either buy far more office supplies than are ever used on the premises, and you'll never be able to trust your staff because they hate you.

As I pointed out yesterday (and as Teresa Nielsen Hayden pointed out last March), Bush in the White House (and Rumsfeld in the Pentagon) manage their operations by using their authority to cover for their lack of competence and knowledge, by being provocative and challenging to their subordinates — by treating them as adversaries.

This explains why a "loyal staffer" like Joseph Hadley, Condoleeza Rice's number 2 in the National Security Council, while nominally taking the fall for not reacting to the CIA's disavowal of the Niger uranium ore forgery, says things in his press briefing last week such as, "What we know is, again, a copy of the memo [from the CIA, doubting the Niger forgery] comes to the Situation Room, it's sent to Dr. Rice, it's sent — and that's it. You know, I can't tell you she read it. I can't even tell you she received it." I'm voluntarily taking the fall, Hadley said, in effect, because Condi won't cop to reading what I send her.

That's what I meant when I said I'm glad I don't work in the White House. The boss leans hard on his subordinates, and they hate him for it; and their own staffers stand ready to catch them with a knife in the back should they stumble under the boss's leaning.

If you should happen to get that evening phone call asking if you stand ready to help your country by coming to Washington, think twice.

Posted by abostick at July 28, 2003 05:16 PM

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask how you can cop the blame that your country should cop.

Posted by: Stef at July 28, 2003 11:08 PM

No one in the Bush administration is allowed to keep their honor, except incidentally; that is, if Bush doesn't need it. If sacrificing his subordinates' reputations will make him look even the slightest bit better, or grease the skids under some short-term initiative he fancies, he'll do it without a moment's hesitation. Just look at Colin Powell. Or Tony Blair. Or Christine Todd Whitman. Or, if you want to look at it that way, Jeb Bush.

That boy is on nobody's side but his own.

Posted by: Teresa Nielsen Hayden at August 3, 2003 01:22 PM

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