It’s hard to escape all of the political news right now. If you keep an eye out, you can take something away from all the talking heads that you can use at work.
Take some of the stories about vice presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin. The one that grabbed headlines recently was the story that Palin told the Alaska Public Safety Commissioner to fire Palin’s brother-in-law. She wanted him canned, the story goes, because Palin heard her sister arguing with him, and may have heard that he wanted to harm Palin’s dad. The Commissioner declined to fire the brother-in-law, so Palin got rid of the Commissioner. Palin denies firing the Commish for this, or that he was ever pressured to fire her brother-in-law, but the matter is currently under investigation.
What can we take from this? Well, how about perception is everything. Think of The Office “Did I Stutter” episode in which Michael tried to fire Stanley. Not only did Michael make his usual inappropriate racial comments (calling Stanley a beautiful, sassy, powerful black man, for instance), but he created such a scene that Kevin was calling it the clash of the titans. Not ideal. And not so different from the Sarah Palin brother-in-law issue.
Maybe I’m naive, but I’m pretty confident that Governor Palin had good reasons for firing her Commish. There was enough wiggle room, however, to let people spin things. It serves as a good reminder: You always want to have a clear and articulable reason that you’re firing someone. Failing to do so can lead to misunderstandings, low morale, and even lawsuits and investigations. Though you can never guard against opportunists, handling things more directly can really minimize risks and let us focus on the real issues of the day. Like whether Obama knew what he was saying when he talked about putting “lipstick on a pig.”