Archive for the ‘11. Management’ Category

UNDERSTANDING OFFICE POLITICS

Conventional management education and training have become increasingly more sophisticated.   One area that remains to be fully explored by the academic and managerial communities, however, is office politics. Though largely neglected as an academic discipline, it is usually an essential component of job success, although competence and industriousness are equally important. As Marilyn Kennedy states in her book, Office Politics, Seizing Power, Wielding Clout, 75% of all firings in the business world are political executions.  In addition to its importance to the employee, office politics also can play a significant role in the success or failure of an organization. It consists of all of the interactions among employees in an organization. The fact that managers are frequently naive in recognizing and handling the political dynamics that exist among the staff impairs their ability to manage successfully.

Office politics is important to study because one must understand it in order to effectively handle the political games and power struggles that can interfere with employees careers and productivity.  In the July 10, 1984, Washington  Post “Federal Diary,” Mike Causey reported that of 800 senior federal personnel officers responding to a Merit Systems Protection Board survey, almost one in every five said that they had been improperly pressured by managers to save or fire employees during the 1981 reduction-in-force.

Good management and supervision include an understanding of office politics and power.  Because the phrase “office politics” has a bad reputation, even its beneficial and ethical aspects are not usually the subject of serious attention. Managers, supervisors and employees may not advance in their careers sufficiently because of their disdain for office politics and its prudent use.  If a manager is unaware of and not in control of the politics in his/her office, s/he will not be able to manage his/her employees and programs well. On the other hand, excessive involvement in office politics can drain the energy, time, motivation and productivity that should otherwise go into the job.  Dr. Andrew Dubrin, in his book, Winning at Office Politics, cites five levels of involvement in office politics, from the most political to the most naive. They are: Machiavellian, Office Politician, Survivalist, Straight Arrow and Innocent Lamb. For those who are interested, Dr. Dubrin’s book contains a 100-question test which will show how political you are.

The Types of Office Politics

I classify office  politics into three categories: clean, dirty and situational.  “Clean” (ethical) office politics comprises those things one can do to advance his or her career and get the job done at no one’s expense and without being unethical or immoral. Examples of clean office politics include loyalty to one’s supervisor and working in one’s own interest. “Dirty” office politics is immoral and/or unethical and is something which is done to the detriment of others. Examples of dirty office politics include backstabbing and stealing credit for another’s work. “Situational” office politics, as its name implies, is ethical or not depending upon the situation in which it is used.  A good example of situational ethical office politics is the “fait accompli” (accomplished fact). This tactic simply involves taking an action even though it will not be welcomed by the boss. Later, after reaping the benefits of the action, the employee pleads innocence if the boss questions him/her on it.  The employee tells the boss that s/he didn’t now that it would meet with disapproval. With some supervisors this tactic is sometimes necessary though not without risk. Another tactic is “going over the supervisor’s head.” If the tactic is used on a straightforward democratic supervisor, it is usually unethical; therefore it is considered situational office politics.  Another situational ethical tactic is “withholding information.” White collar workers are knowledge workers and information is their stock-in-trade. There are times, however, when it is ethical to withhold information, such as when a supervisor will take all of the credit for the information supplied and not give the employee proper credit.

CLEAN OFFICE POLITICS

Supervisors

No matter how high a level manager or supervisor you are, there is always someone you must answer to. Therefore, in your role as a subordinate, the keystone of office politics is your relationship with your boss. If you keep your relationship sincere and unmanipulative, you are using clean office politics. Your aim is to help make your boss look good.   There are many clean tactics which you can use to improve your relations with your boss. The simplest is showing your boss loyalty.  Loyalty is reporting only to the boss and not going behind his/her back to others; following and respecting the boss’ direction without grumbling or second guessing; disagreeing with the boss only in private; making efforts to instill the boss’ ideas, plans and actions in other employees; not disclosing secrets about the boss; and standing up for the boss when s/he is the subject of criticism.

While teaching an adult education course in “clean” office politics and power in Washington, DC over a six-year period, I’ve found that loyalty to the supervisor is the most difficult for people to understand, let alone accept and use. Students frequently volunteered opinions, such as “my boss is a fool, I know much more than s/he,” and “I don’t know how that idiot ever got his/her job.” Perhaps much of what I hear about supervisors and managers is true; maybe many of them are incompetent in managing work and people. Whether it is true or not is irrelevant here. The boss has legitimate power; s/he writes  your performance appraisals, has the responsibility for your work, and can either praise or discredit you to his or her superiors. If you and your boss don’t like, or at least respect each other, and there’s nothing on the horizon which may change the situation, you should consider changing jobs. Incidentally, showing loyalty to the organization you work for also makes good political sense, although personal and organizational loyalty may not be compatible at times.

Peers

The respect and cooperation of your peers is another essential component of clean office politics and obtaining power ethically.  A few tactics should help you achieve this sometimes very elusive goal: help peers when they need it; be trustworthy and friendly; back them up; don’t complain about all the work you have to do; and avoid pretentions. Incidentally, most dirty office politics occurs among peers, so the above is especially important if you want to minimize the risk of fostering their envy, and the malice, slander and sabotage that it can foster. Envious people try to downgrade the person and/or the person’s accomplishments of which they are jealous.

Subordinates

Finally, relations with subordinates have a role in office politics. Giving recognition for the good work of a subordinate is an outlet for genuine appreciation. Treating subordinates with respect because they are people first and employees second is both humanistic and, coincidentally, part of being a good manager. Finally, a supervisor should not take advantage of subordinates with his/her power.

The aforementioned clean tactics are referred to as political or interactional skills and are most important in judiciously using office politics and power ethically. Other clean tactics fall under the aegis of “visiposure.” This is a combination of visibility (seeing those above you) and exposure (being seen by those above you).       The following are some examples of ethical tactics you and/or your staff could engage in:

  • Staff promoting themselves by talking with you about their progress and keeping you informed of what they’re doing.
  • Staff originating and initiating new ideas, putting them in writing and giving them to you.
  • Staff getting to know the people in the organization by attending office parties, using the cafeteria at work and remembering names.
  • Staff developing a professional attitude by avoiding excessive emotionalism, dressing for success, not engaging in negative gossip about people and not being a clock watcher.
  • Staff speaking up at meetings because that is where they are sometimes seen by people who do not usually see them.
  • Staff asking questions because this is necessary to obtain the information they need to continually improve their job performance, as well as showing their concern for the job.
  • Staff doing things outside the confines of the job. This allows them to meet people throughout the organization.
  • Staff talking about their progress so you know that they have definite goals and want to get ahead.
  • Staff developing a support system through involvement in professional organizations. This provides them with a support system separate from the job and can be important if they run into serious political difficulty on the job.
  • Staff developing a specialty so they can stand out from the crowd and get the recognition they need to advance their careers.

DIRTY OFFICE POLITICS

Up to this point we have dealt only with clean office politics. Let’s look at the dirty side so that you can more effectively protect yourself and your staff from it.

Paranoia vs. Naivete

To consider dirty office politics rationally, one must endeavor to be completely objective about oneself.  Some people are absolutely convinced that someone is out to get them. Because people, on occasion, are really out to discredit someone else for various reasons, one needs to make a clear distinction between objective reality and paranoid thinking.  Paranoid thinking exists when the amount of fear, anxiety and concern is not justified by real danger. To illustrate, it might be considered paranoid to be excessively fearful of crime in a predominantly crime-free community, whereas, to be concerned about being mugged while walking along some sections of the formerly infamous Fourteenth Street corridor in Washington, D.C., at one o’clock in the morning is prudent, not paranoid, and should result in appropriate action. To combat paranoid thinking, if you believe someone is out to get you, ask yourself “how do I know this to be true-;” “what am I observing that leads me to that opinion;” and “is this sufficient to warrant my belief that someone is out to get me?” It often takes considerable thought to sort out all the relevant information and form a rational opinion as to whether or not you’re someone’s target.

On the other hand, though not bad in terms of mental health, naivete in office politics can be hazardous to your career. If you think that everyone’s out to help you, give yourself a naive-zero on the accuracy of perceptions scale below. Likewise, if you see a coworker’s power and influence rising as yours is descending and you do not get at least a little suspicious, score yourself once again near the naive-zero on the scale.  Another indicator that you may be an actual or potential victim of dirty office politics is when former enemies in the office suddenly become friends; they may have found a common enemy — you.  The graph below illustrates the distinction between being paranoid and being naive. It is intentionally simplistic to illustrate the point.

Accuracy of Perceptions Scale

0____________100____________0

N                                   R                                  P

A                                   E                                  A

I                                    A                                  R

V                                   L                                   A

E                                   I                                   N

T                                   T                                  O

E                                   Y                                  I

 

 

Slander differs from gossip in that gossip is not as malicious, persistent and purposeful as is slander. One defense against slander and backstabbing is not to allow the slander to damage your self-image. Another defense is to launch a small counterattack. by innocently asking associates on occasion why the slanderer is so unhappy. By knowing that someone is slandering you, you can more effectively combat it. The following are options you have to-combat slander: confrontation; exposure; retaliation; rewarding the guilty party to make him or her feel guilty, suspicious or confused; and eliminating the cause. Often people readily accept stories on the grapevine without verification. Most of the time these stories contain partial truths, misunderstandings, distortions or outright misstatement of fact. Clever slanderers, however, base their dirty work on real incidents; they simply define or explain the incidents in an intentionally distorted manner so as to make someone look stupid or incompetent. They also get to the manager first with their distorted version of an incident so as to “poison the wells” for any other versions that may follow. Since supervisors and managers must rely, in large part, on information from subordinates, they therefore have to be especially wary of the derogatory comments they hear about employees. Since the “reputation” method is commonly used by managers to informally assess staff, even if a diligent manager follows up on rumors and makes first-hand observations of an employee, selective perception may bias the observation, since s/he is starting out with preconceived ideas that were furnished when one subordinate gave the “lowdown” on another. To counter the tendency towards selective perception, a manager must suspend judgement until s/he has sufficient data to form a defensible opinion. Personally, I prefer confronting an employee and thereby allowing him or her opportunity to explain.

A devious tactic, less onerous than backstabbing and stealing credit, is using flattery (not genuine praise) to manipulate people into doing what you want them to do. Constantly raising questions concerning a peer’s judgement and providing misinformation (with some truth thrown in for plausibility) is another tactic practiced by clever unethical office politicians.

SITUATIONAL OFFICE POLITICS

Of the three types of office politics, “situational” is the most difficult to use wisely. This is because most people have an image of themselves as being good, honest, righteous, ad infinitum, and they therefore rationalize many of their actions as being warranted by the situation or someone else’s actions. Many atrocities have been explained and “justified” by situations. The most recent examples are acts of terrorisrn which killed or injured innocent people.

In addition to the fait accompli mentioned earlier in this article, “avoiding losers” is a situational tactic. If you lunch and socialize with other managers, supervisors or staff with bad reputations, it is likely that your reputation may be tarnished. If the person with a bad reputation is a friend, avoiding that individual solely because of his or her reputation is a situational tactic that only you can judge as ethical or not. Another situational tactic is the “red herring” which is useful for managers because of the desirability of handling tricky personnel problems without needlessly humiliating people. For example, a manager may not want to tell, for some legitimate reason, an employee the full story of why s/he is -being fired, but use a “red herring,” or explanation that diverts attention from the blunt truth.

Discouraging Unethical Office Politics

At this point you may asking yourself if there’s anything that can be done to dissuade employees from engaging in dirty office politics. It should be clear to managers that staff  are going to get involved to some extent in office politics and will not make the ethical distinctions enumerated here. There are, however, a few tactics that managers can use to improve the chances for ethical behavior and a more decent office environment to thrive:

  • Keep your staff busy. Employees engaged in meaningful work and achieving worthwhile goals don’t have as much time and energy for office politics, clean or dirty.
  • Keep your staff well informed. Communication is an important part of the manager’s job and lack of it will foster conjecture, which is usually much worse than reality.
  • Give your employees, to the extent practicable, separate responsibilities, to minimize jealousy and cut-throat competition. Sometimes overlapping responsibilities are necessary, and even desirable, but if an organization can be structured without it, there will be more peace and harmony.
  • Be non-judgemental in dealing with your staff. If you want them to listen to you, and take your advice when you really need them to, they must trust you. That means not only respecting their confidences, but also empathetically listening to their complaints and problems.
  • Trust your staff. Expect them to do the right thing and help them to do it. This should help curtail devious behavior. The German philosopher Goethe said “Treat people as if they are what they ought to be, and you will help them to become what they are capable of being.”
  • When interviewing job applicants for a vacancy in your office, look for compatibility with your other staff. An applicant’s resume should tell you most of what you need to know about his or her knowledges, skills and abilities to do the job. The interview should help you tell how friendly, cooperative, and loyal the applicant is.
  • Build team spirit to encourage mutual support and understanding. Meetings can be a useful tool in accomplishing this, but the attitude of the manager is essential.
  • Give your employees an opportunity to read about office politics. Often, people engage in unethical behavior because they cannot distinguish between what’s ethical and what’s not. This article has been written to remove that ambiguity.

POWER

Power and office politics go hand-in-hand. The more power one has, the more effective his or her office politics can be. Power is defined here as the ability to marshal the resources to get the job done. There are basically six sources of power: legitimate, reward, coercive, referent, expertise and charismatic. Legitimate power is the official power you have as a manager in an organization; you have reward power if you can promote; you have coercive power if you can fire. Associate with or have a good rapport with one or more of the leaders with power in your organization and you have referent power. If you’re an expert at your job, you have expertise power. President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King are good examples of people who had charismatic power.

A manager automatically has legitimate, reward and coercive power. If you’re a good manager, you probably have some charismatic power. How does one obtain more power? You can develop referent power by becoming friendly with other managers. Many people who have very little legitimate power have enormous referent power. Secretaries are good examples of this phenomenon. Become excellent at your job and you’ll gain expertise power. Develop your verbal and non-verbal skills, dress for success, and develop desirable leadership skills through education, training, reading and experience, and you’ll be on your way to developing charismatic power.

CONCLUSION

Office politics is a fact of organizational life. This article has discussed clean, dirty and situationally ethical forms of it. The most useful political tactic, however, is one called “honest and straightforward.” It is not only the easiest to use, it does not cause ‘the anxiety that many of the other tactics do. Work would be far more pleasant if all interactions were of this type, however an awareness of the other types is essential.

If you are like most managers, supervisors and employees, you not only deplore office politics, you are absolutely convinced that you do not engage in any form of it, be it conscious, unconscious, clean, dirty or situationally-ethical. I hope that this article has accomplished three purposes: made you more aware of office politics and therefore better able to handle it; demonstrated that some forms of office politics can be ethical; and adequately described dirty office politics so that there is more certainty as to what is ethical and what is not. An awareness of all types of office politics can be useful to you in maintaining a pleasant office environment and in succeeding in an ever-more competitive world.

Mike Russo

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CONSEQUENCES to the U.S. from PRESIDENT OBAMA’S ECONOMIC POLICIES

 

President Obama meant well.  He sounded sincere and touted “fairness” as his primary concern in his governance of the nation.  However, it’s true that “the road to hell is paved with people with good intentions.”  In plain English, it almost doesn’t matter if the President was sincere  and meant well if the results of his policies were to cause great  harm to hundreds of millions of people.  The percentage of Americans with full-time jobs (“Civilian Labor-force Participation Rate”) has not been as low as today (62% of civilian labor force) since the late seventies and if unemployment statistics were calculated the way they were in the year 2000, unemployment would be about 10%.  If they were calculated the way they were during the Great Depression, unemployment would be over 20%.  Below is my analysis of those major policies of President Obama that destroyed the American dream for many Americansand which President Trump and the Congress need to reform:

A. OBAMACARE/AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: This  law is a wet blanket on the economy. While I’m for good healthcare, and for insuring people with pre-existing conditions as well as kids up to the age of 26 years-of-age on their parents insurance, Obamacare is a bureaucratic nightmare with much more expensive premiums for most people, and unbelievably-high deductibles and co-pays.  This turns most Obamacare policies into catastrophic care only because most people will never meet their deductibles and will therefore be paying out-of-pocket for most of their healthcare.  This turkey needs to go and hopefully will be replaced with something created by a combination of Senators and Representatives from both major political parties.

B. IMPEDING ENERGY PRODUCTION:  A decision on the Keystone pipeline was made for political reasons.  Oil production on government land was significantly down, however, basically because the environmental lobby was against all fossil fuels.  Meanwhile, America has more gas, oil, coal, and shale oil than all of the countries in the Middle East combined but government regulations prevent most of it from being developed.  The wealth created by all of this energy could pay off the National debt, the trillions in unfunded liabilities, and produce an economic boom the likes of which no country has ever seen.  And as thoroughly, scientifically, and irrefutably proven in David Archibald’s, Twilight of Abundance, the warming trend of the earth over the last century, up until 18 years ago when it stopped,  is due mostly to Sun Spots and Solar Flares, not to the burning of fossil fuels.  

C. DEFICITS/NATIONAL DEBT: President Obama doubled the National Debt (from $9 trillion to $20).  The Federal government is still borrowing billions/month from the Federal Reserve so the annual budget deficit is currently over 1/2 trillion dollars/year.  Each year the Annual Budget Deficit is added to the total National debt and currently the National debt is about $20 trillion.  This amount of deficit spending and National Debt is unsustainable. The Federal Reserve  has the authority to print money and by doing so has been able to get away with this huge deficit spending,  but doing so without the backing of gold and/or legitimate loans from other countries, simply inflates our currency.  The U.S. dollar is currently the world’s “reserve currency,”  but our borrowing and spending may eventually change that.  When it occurs, the dollar will immediately decrease in value by about 30%, our credit rating dramatically reduced and interest rates on our borrowing dramatically increased, and our ability to borrow severely curtailed.

D. REGULATIONS:  Regulations are necessary in our society but government needs to be very careful in not over-regulating since this can and does add significant costs to the economy, negatively impacts business creation, and reduces freedoms.  The regulations written pursuant to Dodd-Frank, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Affordable Care Act  (“Obamacare”), among many others, are excessively burdensome to people and the economy.  ESA, for example, has caused the destruction of most crops in California’s Central Valley due to the Delta Smelt, a small fish on the Endangered Species list. Dodd-Frank is a financial nightmare that does nothing to prevent future bank problems.  Obamacare has and is destroying jobs.

E.  HIGH TAXES:  Money taken from the economy in taxes should be limited because it hurts the economy.  Tax money should be used only for legitimate purposes.  Higher taxes is a drag and drain on the economy so  government needs to be careful to spend it wisely.  Lowering tax rates on everyone who pays taxes in order to stimulate the economy is the preferred way of increasing tax revenues and growing the economy to pay for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, etc.

F. CORPORATE TAXES:  A significant Obama policy  that has unintentionally done  harm to many people is the retention of the 35% corporate tax, which is higher than any other country in the world.  This has led to the flight  of many U.S. corporations and businesses to other countries, and with this flight, the jobs and taxes that go with them.  They need to be reduced to 15-20%.

G. PROLONGED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS:  Extension of the duration of unemployment benefits for more than  12 months is very harmful to the unemployed as evidenced by studies showing  the unemployed usually do not even look for jobs until a few weeks prior to their unemployment benefits expiring.  At one point, Obama, in conjunction with a Democrat Congress, extended unemployment benefits to 24 months. “Compassion” was the stated reason, but getting the unemployed off of of the official unemployment roles  so that the official unemployment rate would be lowered is the real reaon.

H., I., J.,K., L., M., N., etc.

In closing, most Americans were proud that the U.S. elected an African-American President 151 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed  American slaves, even if they personally did not vote for him.  The United States inherited slavery from England when it took over the country in 1776 but had to temporarily retain slavery  in order to form the Union to include Southern States (the “Great Compromise”).  At the first opportunity, the U.S. rid itself of slavery (in 1863).

The first African-American President unfortunately had no experience in managing anything or in guiding an economy and therefore the U.S. consequently is badly hurting economically.  While I believe President Obama meant well, he also still believed that failed liberal/”progressive” economic policies (“Keynesian economics”) were the way to stimulate the economy and therefore turned a blind eye to workable economic policies.

President Reagan demonstrated how to get an economy working and the proof is the fact that the Gross Domestic Product (which measures the size of the economy) of the United States almost doubled 1n the 10 years following Reagan’s implementation of his large reduction in tax rates (1983-1993) and curtailing Federal regulations.  President Kennedy also stimulated the economy during a recession in the 60’s by cutting tax rates.

 

 

TRUMP’S ECONOMIC PLAN: REDUCE TAX RATES TO INCREASE TAX REVENUE

 How can soon-to-be President Donald Trump pay for a trillion dollars in infrastructure improvements that he is advocating and still eliminate Budget Deficits and eventually the National Debt?  Few politicians explain this so I thought a U. of Penn Wharton graduate (me), who should know this, would explain it.  Many are concerned that the huge proposed infrastructure spending and proposed tax cuts will force the U.S. further into debt.  If you simply look at the economy as static, this would be true.  However, the economy is dynamic, not static.  Therefore, when you change some things, like reducing corporate taxes from the current 35% to President-elect Trump’s 15%, as well as reducing taxes on the middle class by about 1/3, this stimulates businesses in many ways, bringing back U.S. business and investment money to America and stimulating new businesses and the growth of existing businesses.  In addition, President Trump proposes imposing a 35% tax on any products companies try to sell in the U.S. if that company leaves the United States to make its products in another country.  Therefore, Trump’s economic plan  has both a carrot and a stick.  Moreover, Trump will repeal and replace Obamacare, which is a huge drag on the economy and businesses hiring full-time workers.

All of this resulting economic activity will result in a huge increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is a measure of the size of the U.S. economy.  The taxes from this huge growth in economic activity, though the tax rates are reduced, will result in tax revenues being vastly increased.  President Ronald Reagan did this in the 80’s, as well as reduce regulations, and GDP consequently almost doubled in size within 10 years from the time that Reagan’s tax rate cuts went into effect (1983).  President Kennedy also did this in the 60’s.

GDP growth is extremely important because, with 4% annual GDP growth, the United States can afford to do what needs to be done without having annual budget deficits, that at the end of each fiscal year, are added to the total national debt.

However, the potential monkey-wrench in Trump’s economic plans, is that whenever the Federal Reserve significantly raises interest rates, which is likely to happen soon, a recession could follow.

PRESIDENT TRUMP WILL CREATE JOBS & FIX THE ECONOMY

After most recessions, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth comes back with  a strong minimum 5% increase/year.   But not this time…annual growth averaged under 2% for the past 8 years and the Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate diminished to 62.8%, the lowest it has been since 1978.   Moreover, the official unemployment rate is under 5%, but would be about 12% if it were measured the way it was back in the year 2000, and over 20% if it were measured the way it was during the Great Depression in the 30’s.

So what’s wrong this time?  Why not the usual strong growth?  Business has a few trillion dollars that it’s holding onto oversees, so why isn’t it spending its money to expand its operations and create millions of jobs?  There’s a lot of  reasons why business has been cautious in expansion…and we need to understand what the problem is in order to turn around the economy and foster substantial job growth.  Of course, the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is filled with disincentives to job growth, especially full-time jobs, so it’s largely responsible. The large number of new regulations and tax increases also adds additional burdens on job creators and that’s the other major cause.

But who am I to be pontificating on jobs and the economy?  Well, I do have a masters degree in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania.  And my degree is from the Wharton School in the U. of P., which is known for its econometric models of the economy.  To be clear, however, my education was in government, not economics, though I did need to have economics and accounting courses as well as a statistics course in order to graduate from Wharton with my MGA long ago.  I also worked for the Federal government for over40 years in various capacities, and have also worked for the state of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia.

FORMER  SUCCESSFUL QUICK RECOVERIES

Let’s put aside education and experience qualifications because, from my observations, ideology trumps education.  I’ve seen PhD’s advocate  really stupid positions, even in light of contradictory evidence.  So I tend to look at the real world, what actually happens when a particular economic policy is followed and practiced.

I’ll start with the policies used by President John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s.  When confronted with a recession, he cut tax rates which led to increased economic growth and recovery.  In addition, when President Ronald Reagan inherited the worst recession since the Great Depression from President Jimmy Carter in 1980 (unemployment over 10%, inflation 13.5%, mortgage interest rates up to 20%), President Reagan cut tax rates to the extent that GDP almost doubled in ten years and tax revenues to the Federal government greatly increased in the 10 years following the tax rate cuts.  President George W. Bush had a similar experience with tax rate cuts, revenues to the Federal government significantly increased.

PAST FAILURES

Let’s look at what actually happened when the opposite approach was used:  it is estimated that President Franklin D. Roosevelt doubled the duration of the Great Depression in the 1930’s by using the John Keynes economic model of increasing government deficit spending and the US still did not even get out of the Great Depression until World War II.   Moreover, when Japan’s economy went bust in the 90’s, it spent trillions over a 20-year period trying to stimulate its economy.  The huge deficit spending did nothing except give Japan a large debt.

WHAT PRESIDENT OBAMA TRIED

Which brings us up to today when President Barrack Obama spent almost a trillion dollars in his “stimulus” package in a effort to turn around the economy…and also devalued the dollar by having The Federal Reserve Bank print trillions of dollars with no backing through it’s so-called Quantitative Easing 1, 2, and 3.  He also tried other short-term Federal spending programs such as his “cash for clunkers” and engaged in huge annual deficit spending, the extent of which has never been seen before.  His economic policies, based on the discredited theories of economist, John Maynard Keynes,  have actually have made the economy worse by piling up huge government debt (over $19 trillion in total national debt which is greater than the annual GDP of the US), with very little to show for it,  and whose interest payments will be unsustainable when interest rates increase.

Let’s look at other factors significantly adversely affecting the economy, such as oppressive government regulations.  One of the reasons for President Bill Clinton’s economic success in the 1990s was his significantly cutting back many Federal Regulations (as well as the reduction in government employment through attrition) as part of his “National Performance Review” initiative.  President Obama’s policy, on the other hand,  on preventing drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, has resulted in 240,000 barrels/day less oil from the Gulf  which would have led to large increases in gasoline prices were it not for oil companies engaging in horizontal drilling and fracking on private and State lands.  Another example of over-regulation is the Dodd-Frank bill, the stated purpose of which was to prevent future financial meltdowns…but it did not even deal with the cause of the meltdown, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who threatened  and coerced banks into making housing loans to people who could not afford to repay them.  Dodd-Frank also had adverse impacts on small banks and dried up loan money for small businesses that would have otherwise been available to them to expand.

Then there’s Obamacare that is being implemented which has been estimated to actually cost the government up to 3 trillion dollars in the first 10 years, as well as lead to very expensive, rationed and inferior health care.   Then, of course, there’s EPA’s over-regulations, such as the one on carbon dioxide, which as we know, is an inert gas, the chief purpose of which is food for plant life, which turns carbon dioxide into oxygen.  Moreover, let’s not forget how hundreds of thousands of farm hands were suddenly unemployed when the US Department of the Interior shut off the water to California’s Central Valley in an effort to protect the Delta Smelt (a small fish) that was on the Endangered Species list.  All of these things have severely hurt jobs.  Finally, extending unemployment benefits to 99 weeks actually increased unemployment because studies show that, on average, unemployment benefit recipients don’t even begin looking for work until 4 weeks prior to the end of their benefits.

IS CUTTING TAX RATES FAIR?

But cutting tax rates isn’t fair, is it?  Even President Obama said in an interview a few years ago, when confronted with the fact that cutting the capital gains tax rate in the past has actually resulted in increased tax revenues to the Federal government, that he still would not cut the capital gains tax rate because “it wasn’t fair.”

So is it fair to cut tax rates even though we know that the result would be to increase tax revenues?  The nation would then have more money to help the poor, not less, so why not do it?  I can understand the “equality” argument but  is it really a good thing if everyone were equally poor as they are in many countries?   “So what” if there are some super-wealthy people…we know that in the United States they will eventually give most of their money to charity anyway and do it much more wisely than the Federal government!   Winston Churchill said that  capitalism is a bad form of government except that it’s better than all other forms of government.

THE SOLUTION

Cutting  tax rates and regulations have always worked in the past and would stimulate the economy and thereby create many jobs.   Political ideology is the only thing preventing our government from following these time-tested strategies.   Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Bush all increased tax revenues by cutting tax rates for everyone.  Today, the bottom 50% of earners pay no Federal income taxes…the upper 10 %, on the other hand,  pay 70% of all Federal income taxes.  If you believe that’s not enough, how much is enough?  The U.S. corporate tax rate is currently 35%, the highest in the world, and consequently has led to many businesses moving their operations and jobs to other countries and caused the United States to lose many jobs.  It’s estimated that there are at least 3 trillion dollars off-shore that we could entice back to the US if we offered a zero corporate tax rate for the first few years and a contract stating that the businesses would remain in the US for at least another 5 years.  The US needs to put ideology aside and focus on solving the nation’s economic problems.  Although  President Obama can appear very friendly, his policies have really hurt the United States, so it’s time for newly-elected President Trump to: 1)try approaches other than very large amounts of Federal deficit spending and to forget about raising taxes on anyone in this under-performing economy; 2)approve the Keystone pipeline and begin granting permits for oil wells in the Gulf and on Federal lands; 3)rein in the Environmental Protection Agency on over-regulations; 4)eliminate job and small business-killing regulations; 5)cut corporate income taxes from their current 35% (the highest in the world) to 15% to lure back the large number of businesses that moved overseas to escape the U.S. confiscatory taxes; and 6)repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).   I believe that President Donald Trump will do these things and by so doing will fix the economy and create jobs.

WHY DONALD TRUMP WAS ELECTED PRESIDENT? BACKBONE!

I’m sick of the media explaining that Donald Trump did well because of their many (half-baked) ideas and therefore I felt compelled to write this post, however, I must say that targeting blue-collar workers and rust-belt states was clever.

My credentials for saying what I’m about to say are simply that I’m a conservative, a graduate of U. of Penn’s Wharton School (but with a MGA , not an MBA), and have over 40 years employment with the Federal, a State and a city government.  I believe that Trump supporters support  him for the same reason that I like him:  the man has a stiff spine and is not timid.  When he’s criticized by the Press or political opponents, he doubles-down and fights back even harder.  In addition,  Trump’s focus on illegal immigration, the $19 trillion in National Debt, weakened military, Obamacare, anemic war on terror, tiny growth in the economy, etc. has touched a nerve with the electorate.  He’s truly a “Blue-collar Billionaire.”

Mitt Romney lost the 2012 Presidential election to President Obama because he refused to fight back.  He was more than capable, as evidenced by his outstanding performance in his first debate with President Obama.  When viciously attacked by the Obama campaign, he refused to fight back.  Governor Romney’s poor performance came on the heels of Senator McCain’s poor performance in the 2008 Presidential campaign.  Moreover, it followed President Bush’s unwillingness to fight back when constantly accused by the Left that, “Bush lied, people died.”

I’m not advocating picking stupid fights that can’t be won and simply receiving a black eye, but I also believe in not backing off when Democrats make false allegations.  For example, I believe that Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, are often given bum raps when they don’t push a Bill in Congress that they know won’t pass.  However, there is a time to fight but Republican leadership doesn’t appear to have the stomach for it.  When there are good and rational reasons for not fighting, the Speaker and the Majority leader need to explain this on Fox News and other news outlets that are fair, otherwise don’t blame voters for thinking they are jellyfish-spine Republican Congressional leaders.

Donald Trump is a streetfighter.  “Turning-the-other-cheek” is not for successful politicians.  Trump is improving  his messaging and appointing impressive people to help him develop his policies.  He had a resounding victory over Hillary Clinton, thanks to his strong backbone. If he’s able to implement the policies he advocated in the election, he will go down in history as being one of our greatest presidents.  Congratulations and good luck Mr. President-Elect.

OBAMACARE EQUALS NO HEALTH INSURANCE

Without subsidies, Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unaffordable for most people.  Because it is so bad, many are looking for a President Trump to repeal and replace it with something much better and much less expensive.  When fully implemented in 2017, most Americans will not receive subsidies, which currently total about $60 billion/year.  Incidentally, because employers are not required to provide heath insurance for part-time workers, most new jobs being created  in the U.S. are part-time.  While this makes the unemployment roles look good, it has been a nightmare for most Americans.

I’ve been a supporter of universal healthcare since the year 2000 and, although I did not vote for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, I was hopeful that he would make good-healthcare-for-all a reality.  It did not cross my mind that Obama  would promulgate legislation that would destroy healthcare for many more Americans than it might help.  It also did not occur to me that healthcare premiums would double, triple, or even quadruple…and that deductibles would be as expensive as twelve thousands of dollars/year and co-pays double…and that all of these consequences combined would have the cumulative effect of destroying healthcare for tens of millions Americans.

Let’s give the creators of Obamacare the benefit of the doubt and assume that their hearts were in the right place, and that the passage of the ACA was not simply an attempt of government takeover of 1/6 of the U.S. economy.  The Affordable Care Act  has demonstrated that it is not affordable and is pitiful health insurance…it was poorly and incompetently designed and executed.  It reminds me of  the homily that “an elephant is a mouse designed by committee,” but in the case of the ACA, designed by one political party in Congress.  Okay, so it’s time scrap it and start over.  No problem!  Right?  Wrong!

But wasn’t Obamacare  designed to be like Romneycare, which was passed by Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts?  That’s what the politicians say to justify Obamacare, but that’s “Bull”.  Romneycare only affected about  8% of the Massachsetts population or about 6.5 million people.  Obamacare covers everyone except those exempted by the President, or about 300 million Americans.  Romneycare does not have penalties or mandates that Obamacare does. The very few good aspects of Obamacare, pre-existing conditions and coverage on parents insurance until age 26, can be simply added to new health insurance Federal legislation.

Although Obamacare  is clearly very bad and expensive health insurance, except for those receiving significant subsidies or exemptions,  the U.S. may end up being stuck with it. The reason is totally political.  One sixth of the economy is healthcare, soon to be controlled totally by politicians in 2017  The ACA or “Obamacare” is a politician’s dream come true but the average American’s nightmare.  With thousands of dollars required for deductibles before reimbursement by insurance companies kicks in, Obamacare for most ends up basically being only catastropic health-care insurance, which is important and necessary, but not something one should pay a lot of money for.

The final opportunity for Obamacare to be either repealed and replaced will come with the 2016 Presidential election.  Only if Republicans control the Presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives will Obamacare be replaced with healthcare that is affordable and truly cares about people.

 

CHOOSING A PRESIDENT

On November 8, 2016 we Americans will make a decision that will likely he one of the most important decisions of our lifetime: who to vote for to be the next President of the United States.  Many believe that politics is stupid because of all of the partisan bickering that goes on.  That may or may not be true, but it’s irrelevant…our next President will make decisions that will affect not only us, but our children and grandchildren as well.

The following criteria for selecting a President is non-partisan.  I came up with them after looking at everyone else’s and concluding that those criteria are inadequate.  My qualifications for doing this are: I followed politics for over 50 years, my Masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania is in Government Administration, and I’ve worked for the Federal, State and local governments for 44 years.  My 6  criteria for choosing a President are listed below and are prioritized and listed in the order of their importance, so #1 is the most important and #6 the least important.

1. INTEGRITY: one of the most important qualities but not so common in many politicians.  This is important because the President may ask us to go to war or to make some other sacrifice, so we need to be able to trust him or her and not think that whatever is being done is for political purposes.

2. POSITIONS ON ISSUES:  this criterium might also be called “ideology”  and is really the most important reason why one should select one presidential candidate over another.   The problem with it is that many politicians are adroit at lying, obfuscating issues and at pretending righteous indignation.

3. EXPERIENCE: there is no job exactly like the presidency but there are some jobs that provide relevant experience.  It’s not a coincidence that seventeen of our U.S. Presidents have been Governors of a State.  Being a Governor provides the best experience  for the presidency, however any executive or managerial experience is relevant and useful.  Legislative and legal experience is useful.

4. EDUCATION: A masters degree in either Business or Government Administration is probably the most relevant education a President could have.  A law degree is helpful.

5. OPEN-MINDEDNESS:  In U.S. politics, the politician is either on the left or the right and this ideology  can be constraining at times for finding the best solutions to a problem or dilemma.

6. PUBLIC SPEAKING and CHARISMA: for his “bully pulpit” duties, a President would be well-served by being a master of the spoken word…and if he or she is charismatic as well, so much the better.

You may agree or disagree with my 6 criteria or perhaps you simply may want to add a few more.  Whatever…but it is important to have criteria (or standards) to use, otherwise you’ might do what many people do: vote solely by political party, vote because of something irrelevant like age, gender, physical appearance, ethnicity, race, or emotions.  While most elections don’t matter that much, the upcoming Presidential election will determine if our huge $19 trillion National debt will  place us into the league of the great civilizations that eventually bit the dust by going bankrupt.

 

APPLYING THE FIVE FUNCTIONS OF MANAGEMENT

Planning, organizing, directing, coordinating, and controlling: do each of these well and with a sincere belief in the worthiness of what you’re trying to accomplish as well as a sensitivity to the employees who work for you and the people you’re serving and you’ll find it hard to fail. To use each of the five functions, we need to understand them.  Here’s my brief explanation of each:

1. PLANNING

It’s widely believed that the more time one spends planning, the less time is needed for implementation of the plan.  I go even further than that: better and more thorough planning should eliminate wasted time on implementing poor plans that end up not working. In planning, it’s a geat idea to solicit critiques and feedback from others prior to adopting the Plan, especially from those that differ with you.

2. ORGANIZING

After you prepare your Plan you need to organize your resources and determine how you intend to implement your
Plan.  Perhaps appointing a Czar to be responsible for implementing the Plan is appropriate. What do you do first, second, third?  The Plan may need to be divided into parts that can be given to managers to take control of to implement.

3 DIRECTING

Next comes the beginning of the implementation of your Plan by directing others to carry  out various portions of the plan, starting with the selection of a Czar to direct the Plan’s implementation.

4. COORDINATING

The more complex the Plan, the more important it is to coordinate with those charged with implementing its various components.  This is something that the Plan’s Czar does.

5. CONTROLLING

This fifth and final function compares the Plan with the results that were actually achieved and then make any changes necessary to ensure that the final outcome is what is desired, even if is was not what was exactly planned for.

 

CONCLUSION

Having  identified and briefly explained the five functions of management, I think it would be useful to go through an example that would illustrate how they actually work.  I thought something controversial would be fun, so let’s use comprehensive healthcare to build a nationwide system that provides more benefits than costs and is affordable and welcomed by all.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare never had popular support.  It narrowly became legislation and only was able to do so because of underhanded actions.  Because of this, there was no honest debate on how to make it work well.  Although politicians on both sides of the aisle wanted to help shape the new health insurance law, this was not done because Republican legislators were not included.  So from its very inception. the ACA Plan was flawed.  Over 2700 pages in length, the ACA was poorly organized and not well-thought-out for disincentives in it to employers and to the economy.

The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services was in charge of the Plan’s implementation (“directing”)  and did a very poor job, starting with the selection of unqualified contractors to build the Federal website for people to sign up for healthcare that lived in states that did not participate in the administration of the ACA. The Secretary should have appointed a ACA Czar to be responsible for making it work well and smoothly.  The Secretary was also responsible for any “coordinating” that was necessary to make the ACA work.

Finally, the fifth function of management and acid test of all Plans is “controlling” or checking to insure that the outcome or results are what was intended, and then to make modifications that are necesary to make that happen.  The ACA is much more expensive than previously-held insurance and is only affordable to those receiving subsidies.  The co-pays and deductibles are ridiculously high to the extent that seeing a doctor is unaffordable to many.  The ACA is so bureaucratic and unwieldy that it is encourages fraud on the part of insurers, its administrators, and healthcare recipients.  It is so flawed that it is probably beyond repair, which makes me personally very sad because I believe in universal healthcare.  The President and both houses of Congress need to work together to replace the ACA with something much better.

Consciously use the 5 functions of management whenever you manage anything complex that you want to see done well.

 

 

USING A “TO DO” LIST FOR GETTING MORE DONE

For over 30 years I used time management strategy and tactics.  It began with my reading nine books on time management in the eighties, starting with Alan Lakein’s, How to get Control of your Time and your Life.  I subsequently taught an adult education course in time management, and have used it for the past 35 years, right up to the present moment.

Rather that quote what author said what, way-back-when, and give their time management tips, I’ll  simply tell what I found works well.

The basic time management tool that most experts agree upon is the use of a daily “To Do” list.  My use of the to-do list evolved over the years but I still make out and use a  prioritized list every day and I carry it and a pen with me wherever I go as well as keep it and a pen on my night table when I go to bed.   When I was working for a paycheck, I attribute my lists for making me somewhat more productive.   Now that I’m retired, I estimate that I get at least three times more done than I otherwise would have without my lists, basically because retirement time, unlike a job time, is mostly unstructured and a daily list gives structure.

The items on your to do list should be prioritized, not simply listed.  The importance of this is actually the most critical aspect of “to do” lists.  Prioritizing the items  on your to-do list helps you answer “Lakein’s Question” which asks, “what is the best use of your time right now?”  Of course, for meetings, appointments  and other timed events, I simply asterisk it on my list rather that give it a numerical priority.  Near the end of each day I prepare my list for that evening and the next day, carrying over unfinished items from the previous day.  The mere act of preparing your list each day helps you focus on what you need to do and how important or even urgent it is.

In the 1930’s, Bethlehem Steel entrepreneur Charles M. Schwab (see his photo in upper right-hand corner), paid management consultant Ivy Lee $25,000 for giving him the very simple idea of a daily “to do” list.  That $25,000 would be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars today.  I personally have found to do lists to be priceless over the past 35 years that I used them.

PAY-FOR-PERFORMANCE

One difficult area in managing programs and supervising people is fairly compensating them, especially compensating them fairly in relation to each other.  Most managers believe in the idea of using pay increases as an incentive for motivating employees to do good work.   However, “pay-for-performance”  has embedded within it an intrinsic unfairness which I’m not sure can be fully overcome.

Basically, supervisors within an organization each rate with differing degrees of difficulty.  Though logistically impossible, theoretically it would be ideal to have one person rate everyone in an organization because this would guarantee that everyone was rated with the same degree of difficulty.   But even then, because some employees are favored by a supervisor over others, bias  creeps into the rating system.

If a performance rating had no consequences, a good or bad rating wouldn’t matter much.  However, it’s  frequently used for determining monetary increases, awards, and even used in deciding who goes and who stays when an organization is downsized.  So performance rating systems are important.

The origins of the Federal employee performance rating systems reside in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978.   Having worked for the Federal government for over 40 years, I know that many Federal agencies do have relatively good systems because  most describe in detail what fully-successful performance is for each job.   However, even with built-in safeguards, the Federal systems still still contain  the hazards enumerated above.  So what’s to be done?  I believe that performance ratings, while potentially important and useful, should not be used for anything too important because they’re simply not accurate enough.   By important, I mean being used to determine who gets the pink slips when an organization is downsized.  Awards are fine, even small monetary awards, but nothing that determines who loses their job, because none of  the systems I’ve seen  are fair and accurate enough to be used for this purpose.  So how does a supervisor/manager determine who stays and who goes?

To do the job right takes a lot of savvy…and it’s complex…because you’re potentially adversely affecting someone’s life, so you should be cautious.  First is something that appears in no performance rating system but is commonly used in making personnel decisions.  Of course, that’s “loyalty”.  A manager/supervisor does not want an employee badmouthing him/her, not simply for personal reasons, but also because this undercuts the supervisor’s/manager’s effectiveness.   But if an employee does have legitimate criticism, s/he  should do it behind closed doors (“praise in public, criticize in private”).  This actually is then a good thing for a supervisor/manager…getting feedback, positive and negative,  from employees, though some supervisors might not like it and retaliate later.

The next important consideration is the employee’s “attitude.”  This is important because employees will need to work in teams, at least occasionally, and most likely much more than occasionally.  A “can-do” attitude and one of “perseverance” and “realistic optimism” is important.

After these two factors are met, then it’s time to examine job performance closely.  The first two factors alone are not good enough.  Competency is critically important, but only after “loyalty” and “attitude” are deemed at least O.K.

 

 

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