Can corporate America afford to walk away from President Trump? – Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

From The Conversation

After campaigning as the candidate best able to work with business, President Donald Trump has shown he is anything but.

stream of resignations from high-level business counsels hit a crescendo recently when Trump was forced to disband two executive councils. The widespread and public defections were in protest over his unwillingness to unequivocally condemn racism and intolerance over the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

As an expert in organizational communication and leadership, I saw the dismissal of the councils as a dramatic and important moment in the relationship between top business leaders and the president. But does it spell the demise of the often difficult partnership between President Trump and corporate America?

A permanent breach?

CEOs like Merck’s Ken Frazier rightly voted their conscience when they began to abandon Trump’s American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum. Frazier, the first to resign, said he felt “a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

The Wall Street Journal, however, was quick to point out that many companies have stopped short of saying they would refuse to work with the White House in the future.

Indeed, despite the heated rhetoric, one thing is clear: Corporate America wants and needs to work with the administration, while the president benefits from a healthy relationship with America’s CEOs.

So if they both need each other, the question becomes how this increasingly tenuous relationship will play out.

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Talking Trump and Clinton in the Workplace – Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

From The Huffington Post

Of course, you know the old adage: Don’t talk about religion and politics. But that’s difficult to avoid as we move into the final weeks of this turbulent election season. It’s natural to discuss the most recent presidential debate with co-workers with the opening line: “Can you believe what just happened?”

With partisan sentiments running high, however, such conversations can lead into stormy waters – if not outright hostility – and that can be counterproductive in the workplace. Modeling the third and final debate, for example, would itself be disrupting; you don’t want to talk over others, shout or slip in insults (“Such a nasty woman” and “You’re the puppet” comes to mind.) There are ways, however, to have political conversations without devolving into a shouting match.

We need to be careful that we – unlike perhaps Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — don’t let emotions get in the way of considered conversation – even if there is a lot of emotion going into the presidential race. For starters, focus on the issues. Instead of immediately jumping in and saying, “How could anyone vote for him/her?” try asking why the candidate deserves support. What do you think of so-and-so’s policy on X? How could that candidate be helpful for our business or our daily lives? Ask, “What do you think of Trump’s or Clinton’s economic plans, their positions on small business taxes or making college affordable.” The last debate actually created some useful fodder for this kind of give-and-take.

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Discussing politics in the workplace — Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

In the latest MIT Sloan Expert Series podcast, Neal Hartman, Senior Lecturer in Managerial Communication at the MIT Sloan School of Management, discusses the current political discourse and the impact of related discussions in the workplace.

Media bias and terrorism coverage – Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

From The Huffington Post

What’s in a word? More precisely, what’s in three words: “radical Islamic terrorist.”

These words seem to be imbued with a strange power. By not uttering them, according to various Republicans, President Obama is losing the war on terrorism. Obama, on his part, has declined to use the three words together, insisting that the United States can’t be perceived as at war with the religion of Islam.

And there’s little the media loves more than a war of words – even if this squabble over semantics has, in fact, very little to do with parsing out the reasons for the horrific attack on an Orlando gay club, which left 49 people dead. The shooter, Omar Mateen, did pledge himself to ISIS, but other aspects of his life point to a troubled mind and history of violence.

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A candidate scorecard – Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

From The Huffington Post

And it’s a wrap.  The two major conventions are over and we now begin the long slog toward Election Day in November.  As someone who studies both communication and leadership styles here at MIT, I think it is worth pausing and sifting through the sometimes overly loud and outsized rhetoric of the past two weeks to create a kind of scorecard.

The presidency is a job after all, an amazing and powerful one, but a job all the same.  So, it seems like a good idea to dispassionately assess the leadership and communication skills of the two candidates—not unlike what we would do if this were a job opening in a major corporation.

Donald Trump has shown his ability to manipulate the media and his facility with social media. He keeps his name in the headlines day in and day out, most recently inviting Russia’s Vladimir Putin to hack Hilary Clinton’s e-mails.   He also seems to have the facility to vacillate on positions without getting into a lot of trouble for doing that.  While many would accuse Trump of flip-flopping, one could suggest that he has developed this as an art or a skill. He’s done a good job of positioning himself as an outsider at a time when people have a great deal of anger towards Washington.

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