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.
There is now near-unanimity that the United States’ Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, enacted in 2010, did not end the problems associated with some banks being “too big to fail.” When it comes to proposed solutions, however, no such consensus exists. On the contrary, financial regulation has become a key issue in November’s presidential and congressional elections.
So who has the more plausible and workable plan for reducing the risks associated with very large financial firms? The Democrats have an agreed and implementable strategy that would represent a definite improvement over the status quo. The Republican proposal, unfortunately, is a recipe for greater disaster than the US (and the world) experienced in 2008.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton’s campaign materials and the party platform point to a detailed plan to defend Dodd-Frank and to go further in terms of pressing the largest firms to become less complex and, if necessary, smaller. Banks must also fund themselves in a more stable fashion. If Clinton wins, she will draw strong support from Congressional Democrats – including her rival for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, and his fellow senator, Elizabeth Warren – when she pushes in this direction.
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.
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.
With regard to financial reform, the outcome of the November election seems straightforward. At the presidential level, the too-big-to-fail banks bet heavily on Mitt Romney and lost; President Obama received relatively few contributions from the financial sector, in contrast to 2008. In Senate races, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio demonstrated that it was possible to win not just without Wall Street money but against Wall Street money. Read More »