Blog, Crisis Management, Politics

The Crisis Prone Presidency

Originally published 12/15/16 of the Huffington Post

Those of us who study corporate crises distinguish between Crisis Prone versus Crisis Prepared individuals and organizations. Crisis Prone individuals and organizations put their primary energies into all kinds of faulty rationalizations that allow them to persist in the false belief that they will never have a crisis: “we’re too big and powerful to have major crises;” “crises only happen to others;” “if a crisis happens, someone will come to our rescue,” “there’s no need to prepare for what’ll never happen.” They are prime cases of denial writ large.

In sharp contrast, Crisis Prepared individuals are constantly probing themselves and their organizations for dangerous rationalizations that keep them from preparing for worst-case scenarios. They accept that all crises are preceded by a steady stream of early warning signals that show that a major crisis is highly likely. As a result, they do all they can to put in place specific procedures that will pick up early warning signals. In this way, they hopefully head off major crises before they actually happen, the best form of Crisis Management. Nonetheless, since even with the best of preparations crises still occur, they constantly work to improve and maintain Damage Containment mechanisms. They know that the worst time to set up Damage Containment is during the heat of actual crises. As a result, they are absolutely ruthless in rooting dangerous rationalizations that prevent them from being Crisis Prepared.

My colleagues and I have shown that Crisis Prepared organizations experience significantly fewer crises, are substantially more profitable, have fewer lawsuits and injuries, and lose fewer days in resuming operations than Crisis Prone Organizations. In short, Proactive Crisis Management is not only the right ethical thing to do, but it’s good for business.

Against this backdrop, President Elect Trump fares extremely poorly. In failing to set up a true blind trust, he’s setting himself up for major political conflicts of interest. From the standpoint of Crisis Management, a blind trust is one of the major forms of Damage Containment for potential financial and personal crises. It helps ensure that one’s political office will not be used for financial gain. But then, in order to set up a blind trust, President Elect Trump would have to own up to the very real possibilities of major conflicts of interest. In a word, he would have to stop engaging in denial, which given his personality is one of the most difficult things for him to do.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Too many of his cabinet appointments have already set off hailstorms of protest. They are sure to be embroiled in crises for years.

Trump’s constant use of Twitter is nothing but sorry form of preemptive Damage Control. Instead of heading off crises, it only exacerbates them. So do all his preposterous claims, for instance that he actually won the popular vote because of all the illegal votes that were cast for Hillary.

I expect Trump to stumble from one crisis to others again and again. (China?) Of course, none of this really matters to his base. If anything, they want him to create major crises in order to “drain the Washington swamp.” But what happens if all his promises to bring back jobs and help the middle class only end up helping him and his business cronies? Do we really expect the case of Carrier to be easily replicated?

Are we prepared to confront the crisis when so many downtrodden workers realized that they have been royally betrayed?

Blog, Politics, Psychology

Where are all the adults?

Originally Published 12/14/16 on Nation of Change

The election of someone so unfit as Trump to be President not only opens up, but relives old traumas. No wonder why Trump arouses such intense feelings.

An important concept from General Psychology, the Parentified Child, is key to understanding why so many are suffering from feelings that everything is completely falling apart. In a word, many are not only overwhelmed by, but alternate between intense feelings of anger, hopelessness, and despair.

Parentified Children are children who early in life had to assume the role of a parent because their actual parents were unable to function as adults. Whether the parents suffered from debilitating mental illness, serious alcohol or drug addiction, were generally incompetent, or were unavailable emotionally, the basic roles between parents and children were fundamentally reversed.

Because the parents weren’t dependable, or fully present, the children had no alternative but to step in and keep things running as best they could. Thus, the children often prepared meals, dressed younger kids for school, etc. But as a result, the children had no childhoods themselves. This not only produced major bouts of depression later in life (normal disappointments and setbacks were magnified), but lifelong feelings of intense anger towards the parents, and adults in general.

I know all of this for a fact for I was a Parentified Child. My mother suffered from a chronic, debilitating form of depression and my father drove a cab at nights to get away from a sick wife and two young kids. My brother and I were thereby essentially left on our own to care for our mother and ourselves as best we could, which was difficult since there was barely enough money for food and rent for the run-down flats in which we lived.

However, I was blessed with brains. Since I didn’t want to live like my parents, and I did extremely well in school, I embraced education with a fierce passion. It was my ticket out of poverty. I not only ended up getting a PhD, but became a professor and a student for life. In short, those who have the character to survive bad, if not lost, childhoods have also developed the fortitude and will that are necessary for success later in life.

As a result of both my background and education, I understand perfectly what many are feeling, namely where are all the adults who are supposed to help take care of us? Just when the office of the Presidency calls for the most mature, healthy-minded, and highly functioning adult, we’ve elected someone who at best is nothing more than a highly disturbed child, and clearly, an out-and-out demagogue. This not only angers me greatly, but absolutely scares me to hell. My worst nightmare has come to life. Once again the children are put in the position of acting as grownups.

The election of someone so unfit as Trump to be President not only opens up, but relives old traumas. No wonder why Trump arouses such intense feelings.

If in addition, we add what’s going on in the world around us, then truly a dark cloud of bitter hopelessness has descended upon us: Civility has all but vanished. We’re assaulted daily by rudeness everywhere we turn. Dangerous driving has reached epidemic proportions. Madmen are in control of crazy so-called nation states. We live under a perpetual cloud of terrorism. Before and after Trump’s election, there’s been a dangerous surge in hate crimes. The one-percent continue to enrich themselves at the literal expense of everyone else. Callous unfeeling madmen do indeed run the world. They have to be carefully monitored and checked assiduously every day.

If there is a saving grace, and I believe there is, Parentified Children also live with an abiding sense of hope that things will ultimately get better, that somewhere, somehow, adults will eventually come to the rescue. I have never given up the hope that things will get better. After all, they did for me.

But for real hope to exist, we first have to recognize and accept that we are going through what Parentified Children suffered early in life.