Don’t Cave in

Immediately following the Presidential inauguration, there was a lot of “breaking news,” coming from some of the medical professionals serving the previous Presidential administration during the 2020 COVID-19 challenge. Based on their own words, the research, advice, and counsel they offered were often times drastically ignored or worse, re-worded inaccurately. There is video of Dr. Anthony Fauci covering his face in somewhat disbelief (per his comment), as he sat behind Trump, who was making some, shall we say, not scientifically valid comments. Dr. Deborah Birx, had also come forth citing how some of the graphs being presented by the administration were substantially altered from the ones she provided to them. Both of these top professionals were allegedly compromised on several occasions. So why did they stay?

It is easy to say how steadfastly loyal you might be to your values, but never underestimate how truly difficult it can be when you feel those values are being consistently compromised. That situation can leave you feeling trapped. Now you do always have the option to bail out from the situation, but in reality, there are often major consequences associated with that decision. Loss of income and reputational backlash are just a couple.

So why did our two advisors stay? Perhaps there was always that hope that they could still get their voices heard. Both appeared deeply passionate about their work, and wanted to contribute meaningful solutions. Maybe they also enjoyed the esteem of their positions so much, that they simply were not going to let anyone, including the President, impact them. Maybe their respective salaries of $400,000 and nearly $300,000 were simply too much to let go of. So they remained in place, frustrated with and ultimately complacent in the situation now engulfing them.

Two lessons come out of this, and I am going to be very direct about them. First, if you as a so-called leader are publicly neutering your people, you will create complacency and disengagement, and lousy results. You cannot ignore the expertise you brought them in to provide, while also compromising their values, and still expect them to be their best. And you, not them, will be the cause of their lower performance and commitment levels, or their reason to leave.

Lesson number two: Regardless of the actions of the lamebrain in charge, you do not get to sit around and complain, after-the-fact, about how this person marginalized your efforts. No one said work would always be easy, especially in arenas where the job carries the kind of responsibility to bring a hefty six figure salary (as it did with these medical advisors). You have to own the situation you are in, and then decide what action you will take. Becoming complacent is not an answer, especially when you deeply care about something, and what you care about severely impacts a number of others. 

Fauci and Birx knew what they were in for, so they do not get a pass, simply because their circumstances were really challenging.  Both had solid reputations, so stepping up (maybe at the risk of getting sacked) would have likely earned them even more credibility. But there was salary money at stake. And, maybe they thought that they were still in the best positions to make a difference. Only they know for sure.

At some point in your career, you too, will likely have time in the barrel with a self-absorbed superior who causes you to feel truly compromised in your values, and perhaps personally embarrassed to boot. You may decide to leave, knowing the situation is hopeless. Or, you may choose to ride it out, hoping to outlast the obstacle in the proverbial corner office. Whatever the choice, you must not shrug your shoulders and cave in. Hopefully you will remain active in finding new ways to both be heard and more able to meaningfully contribute.

Share Your Thoughts