Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A cigar is a cigar is a cigar

My basic policy with this blog is to post any and all reasonable comments written civilly and with sincerity, but not to feel obligated myself to comment on comments. So far I have posted any comment anybody has offered.

If you view the anonymous comment regarding the previous entry, you will see that the writer is concerned that my claim there is that it was "good management" to keep "hard working" Mark Penn on board until the "story broke" about his conflict of interest. This is a point worth addressing.

I am not claiming that good managers should or do retain hardworking employees with conflicts of interest, so long as those conflicts are not known. The claim is that good managers don't throw hard workers under the train precipitously. I do not know precisely when Senator Clinton became aware of the extent of the conflict of interest that Mark Penn had due to his (independent of the campaign) representation of a client whose interests favor NAFTA. Furthermore, regardless of the apparent conflict of interest, I am not sure Mark Penn always made the right decisions for the Clinton campaign.

What I endorse about the way Senator Clinton handled Mr. Penn's departure was that it was accomplished - which needed to happen for both intrinsic and instrumental reasons - and that it was accomplished diplomatically. A flawed but loyal and hardworking employee should not be shoved aside abruptly if that can be avoided. Note I am referring to an objectively problematic employee, not one who does or says something heinous. Heinous people must be let go immediately, although I would still prefer that be done humanely to the extent possible.

To put the point more sharply: good managers do not hang their people out to dry, even if they need to disassociate those people from the enterprise. First, it is cruel. Second, it creates poor morale and inhibits employees or staffers from speaking their minds to managers or candidates. Third, it is gratuitous because often the disassociation can be achieved without hanging anybody out to dry.

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