Palin and the Commish

September 12, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 4 COMMENTS

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.”

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1 Jim
08:34:20, 19/09/08

Drinking on the job (and in the squad car), using a taser on a minor (no it was not during official business), and threatening to kill her father-in-law (yes, there were witnesses)… all seem like pretty good reasons to fire someone. Think of the headlines that could have happened.

“Police Officer kills family while driving drunk … and on duty.”
(Gee, big time liability for the state here)

Police Officer tasers son and kills him, Cop says, “he wanted me to do it, therefore I don’t have to have common sense”
(another bill lawsuit against the state)

Police Officer kills father-in-law, witnesses said he was going to do it and he did
(who sees any good in that?)

2 cindy
09:30:33, 19/09/08

A little more research on your part and you would know the reason, it was clear cut insubordination on the Commish’s part. Also, the bro-in-law trooper should have been fired b/c he was caught numerous time driving his squad car drunk, he tasered his 11 yr old step-son and made threats of death and violence against the Governor and her family, but the State Police did nothing!

3 Troy Foster
15:28:19, 19/09/08

You both make great points. There seems to be really clear-cut and objective evidence for the termination. So, Governor Palin would have been better served to put this in writing and extinguish the questions. Written documentation for a decision, as we all know, really gets rid of any room for spin (or most of it anyway).

4 Stephen M (Ethesis)
20:10:13, 21/09/08

The other lesson from this post is that no matter what you say, some people will insist on missing the point.

Your point was that regardless of whether or not Palin was in the right, she set it up in such a fashion that it was possible to spin the results, and you have to watch out for that happening.

I liked your response to the comm enters, where you didn’t argue with them, but rather directed them back to the point.

Nicely done.

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