Publisher’s Corner: “Know Thyself” is good advice for politics and life

Legislative Gazette Publisher, Dr. Alan Chartock

Lessons to be learned in politics:

Try to be very good to those who work for you. If you assume that being angry and too demanding with your staff is a good way to get the most productive work out of them, you had better think again. One of the reasons for that is that sooner or later you will either fire them or they will leave your employ and make no mistake about it — they will not forget how you were with them. They’ll tell the newspapers.

If your staff likes you, they will protect you. If they don’t like you, they will see you in hell before they have anything nice to say, especially after they have left the scene.

In running a fairly large public radio network, I try to remember that I am working for the people lower down on the chain of command just as much as they work for me.

Unfortunately, sometimes you do have to fire people and that’s where the other folks who work for you figure in. It’s all a matter of balance. Sometimes you just can’t get along with someone and that’s when it is really important that other people familiar with the situation are there for you.

Freud tells us that so much is a matter of character. If you have a bombastic, mean-spirited personality, it is probably best that you compensate for bad character. You really have to follow the old principle of “Know thyself.”

That doesn’t mean that you let people run roughshod over you, but it does mean that when you wish to reprimand them, you do so with a positive slant. For example, if someone comes to you with an idea that you do not agree with, you might spend some time saying that it was great of them to approach you and that while you may have differences with their idea, you appreciate their coming to you with it.

My father worked for a time in New York City government. He used to wisecrack that it’s important to remember to be nice to everyone, “…even if they were in knee pants because someday, they might turn out to be your boss.”

Then, too, it is a very good idea not to lie. If you do lie, someone will probably call you out for it. Then it is a necessity that you not blame your lies on subordinates. Inevitably, if you don’t lie in the first place, you wouldn’t have to try to untangle the mess you have created.

As my eighth grade math teacher used to tell me, there are times to just “keep shut.” During the recent spate of political blunders, the situation would have been made much better if he who had committed the blunder had just “stayed shut.” But there are personality types who think that just because they are in charge, they should check in on every situation. That kind of approach shows anything but good, temperate leadership.

I sometimes get letters from some very nasty folks who use the “F” word loosely. Sometimes they lie and make stuff up. It takes all I can do not to “scratch the itch” and treat them unkindly. I had a very good friend who would often comment on something I was about to do by hollering “MISTAKE” at the top of his lungs. If you hadn’t scratched the itch, you wouldn’t have the inevitable mess on your hands.

At the beginning of many episodes of Law and Order, we are instructed that while similar crimes may have been committed, any relationship to what we are about to see is “purely coincidental.” What that really means is that the story that you have just seen was surely ripped from the headlines. The fact is, sometimes people really do make trouble for themselves.