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Friday, March 10, 2017

A Civil Way To Dissent With Political Appointees

As the topic has come up recently, a few practical ideas have emerged. I don't take credit for these ideas; mostly they're common sense and I'm just sharing. They're grouped into a handful of categories for ease of reference:

1. Designated intermediary

  • An office whose job it is to share employee dissent messages at a high level
  • An ombudsperson – “complaint central”
  • Technology - create a neutral space where concerns can be shared by anyone (for example, a Sharepoint-based “issue tracker”)

2. Written communication, readily available, brief and high-level

  • What does your office do? Why is that important? Who are your key partners?
  • What are the key laws, regulations, policies, principles and standard operating procedures that govern your functioning?    
  • What are the ethical considerations that may occur during the normal course of business, and how do you handle those?

3. Training orientations, offered at regular intervals (e.g. a “lunch and learn”)

  • Walk through the organizational chart: Who does what, who reports to whom, etc.
  • History lesson: How did we get started? How did we evolved? What key events shaped our identity today?
  • What are some of the “hot topics” in our world right now? What are the different angles on it?
  • What is the culture like around here? What are some things to be aware of? 

4. Build up the “trust bank account”

  • Ask in advance how to disagree without creating conflict or embarrassment
  • When an issue comes up, ask questions first and draw conclusions later
  • Model respect and professionalism
  • Assume good intent - common ground in your mutual wish to serve the American people.
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Opinions my own. Not intended to explicitly or implicitly represent any government agency, the government as a whole, or any other organization.