He Is Who He Is

I worked as a waiter at a new restaurant decades ago. Chicken Fest was owned by a real estate developer and interior decorator. He had invested a fortune into remodeling the restaurant, which was originally a church that morphed into a string of restaurants that failed repeatedly. His manager hired all the new employees, including me, and trained them. She had good people skills and understood the restaurant business. However, the owner showed up at the restaurant regularly to eat and check on things, and when the restaurant was not making enough money, he started yelling at the employees when they made minor mistakes. The manager resigned, and the owner began running day-to-day operations along with the head chef. Things got worse. Drama every day. The owner barked orders, yelled, and changed things around. I doubt this was good for business because the customers heard it all. As the business deteriorated, the wait staff stopped earning money because the clients stopped coming. More people quit. The owner had opened two successful restaurants, but the concept behind this one and its location were poor ideas. He was a poor manager. The monetary loss did not devastate the owner; he was a millionaire. He eventually cut his losses by selling the restaurant to people who turned it into a successful comedy club. I left before that happened even though I did not have another job lined up.

Years later, I had a part-time teaching job at a proprietary school. The company that owned the school was bought out. The new owners realized that the chain of schools had greater value for its property than it had as an educational institution. They split the schools up, selling off individual schools and doing everything they could to minimize expenses and maximize short-term profits. While the school did not have enough money for replacement light bulbs, teaching supplies, and toilet paper (no kidding), the director had enough money to buy a new Lincoln Continental. My colleagues and I had worked hard to support students, but we were not getting any support from the administration. I had to leave.

I’ve had a dozen or so jobs in the hospitality, retail, and technical industries and seven jobs in higher education. Many of those jobs had excellent managers, collegial employees, and high functioning workplaces. Others had structural problems, management issues, or cultural deficits. I’ve seen leaders with huge egos, managers with an ideology that left people out, decision-makers who ignored evidence, people who repeatedly questioned evidence after the results were conclusive, sycophants who lied, employees who threw others under the bus, and upper level wannabes who had no qualms about using others. If you have been around enough and have been observant, you have probably noticed the good, the bad, and the ugly in your workplaces too.

Our workplaces are comparable to our government. Things are never perfect at work, but in many workplaces, the employees matter, the people who do their jobs are listened to, the customers are respected, rules are followed, and the operation is ethical. When a workplace has inept and unethical leaders, or if the company does not respect the employees or customers, the business will suffer. People will quit if they can and customers will stop coming.

Our government is complex. It’s slow and redundant. Most of the time, the government works. Sure there are problems, but they can generally be worked out because the rules are respected and there is an understanding that the government ultimately is established to serve the people. When the government is grossly dysfunctional, however, the citizens can’t just quit, nor can the customers go somewhere else. People could try to leave the country, but when the country in question is the USA, it will affect the rest of the world. A poorly run business will probably fail. The government remains.

When our workplace is dysfunctional, we can try to make things better, do the best we can in our jobs, protest, lay low hoping things will improve on their own, or quit. We will undoubtedly suffer at work until things improve. We may get depressed. When our government is dysfunctional we can try to make things better, ignore the problems, protest, or leave. However, we have less power to affect the government, especially the federal government. Our only hope to make things better is to unite with others. In the meantime, it is depressing.

Donald Trump and his cohorts have brought dysfunctional government to unimaginable heights (or lows as the case may be). The last few months have shown us more ineptness than most presidents have managed in an entire term. We’ve been lucky so far because the incompetence has been countered by other branches of the government. So far we have seen a lack of concern for government workers, the rules, and the people. But, things have been quiet. What happens when the White House faces a crisis?

Trump and his people are not ethical. The White House is reportedly in chaos. There is no leadership. Our international standing is at an all-time low. The rule of law is being challenged by Trump himself. The press is being manipulated. There is no concern for the rights of people. We don’t know if Trump or his staff colluded with the Russians. What we do know is that Trump’s White House is a scary place. Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue.

We need to protest. We must support our institutions. We have to stand up for everyone’s rights. Remember, power is granted, even when someone has the title of President of the United States. Power can be limited or withdrawn. These are difficult days. We may face serious challenges. Not everyone sees the danger, so we must be resolute and prepared.

Trump has no other tools in his toolbox but bait and switch, lying, sweet-talking, and bullying, but even he, with his massive ego, will change tactics as he continues to fail. He will look for ways to retain his supporters. Who knows how far he is willing to go to stay in power. He may stop being so outrageous which could calm our fears. But we can’t be fooled. He is who he is. We must remain vigilant, especially when the heat is turned up.

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