July 31, 2017; New York Times
Yesterday, the White House announced that Anthony Scaramucci was no longer its communications director. The issue was certainly not productiveness, because “the Mooch,” as he calls himself, has been communicating like crazy even though he had not begun his work officially. He has had a lot to say, for instance, about his colleagues at 1600. He threatened, badmouthed, and generally strutted around like a deranged rooster who had forgotten he was not the real semi-anointed cock of that walk. Perhaps he had also forgotten that “showboating” in Trump’s own image was frowned upon.
In any case, he was what you might call a phenomenally bad “fit” for the position even—and perhaps especially—in the eyes of his boss. Chosen for his track record of aggressive Trump apologism, he was apparently incapable of using his “inside voice.” In what has now become the standard kiss off for the departing, the White House has issued a statement which explained that incoming Chief of Staff John Kelly needed a clean slate from which to work. As you may remember, 10 days ago, it was Scaramucci himself that needed that clean slate, leading to the resignation of Sean Spicer. (Later, he also had a hand in the relieving of Reince Priebus of his duties as the Chief of Staff, even as Scaramucci’s wife was filing for divorce. The Mooch likes to keep it moving.)
“The president certainly felt that Anthony’s comments were inappropriate for a person in that position and he didn’t want to burden General Kelly,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at a briefing.
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Earlier, at the witching hour of 5:30 am, apparently to clear things up, Trump tweeted that there has been “No WH chaos!” It’s probably good that he addressed that personally since, well, now he doesn’t have a current or future communications director. Frankly, some may have been wondering about this exact point.
What lessons on hiring and recruitment can we take away from this? We want to ask readers with a background in HR or a modicum of good sense to chime in, but here are some of our thoughts:
- Don’t hire someone just because they happen to be a friend of yours. Relationships tend to transfer badly from the personal to professional.
- Every time you hire and fail in public, your capital as an attractive workplace for a seasoned professional descends. Potential candidates with a modicum of good sense will avoid you and your pool will be a collection of increasingly unsuitable folk—if that is possible. This ups the chances of making an even more horrendous pick the next time.
- The element of surprise (or shock) is almost never a good idea when making key personnel changes. It is unsettling to staff and stakeholders, and it denies the executive the opportunity to gain meaningful perspective from others.
- It’s hard to retain good staff if they know there is something like an 80–20 chance that they will be publicly humiliated.
Again, we welcome any responsible additions to this list from our readers.—Ruth McCambridge and Michael Wyland