Career Lessons You Can Learn from Trump Firing Nielsen


Let me start by saying this is not a political column but I am going to write about an event that happened in Washington this month.  Hopefully by the end you will see it is career related and a way to help you to be happy at work!

President Trump fired Kirstjen Nielsen because he did not think she was performing adequately in her job.  She was Secretary of Homeland Security.  There are thousands of immigrants trying to come into the US from Mexico.  The President believes there are too many for us to handle and expected his Homeland Security Secretary to solve the problem.

At his direction she issued orders that led to separating parents from children which seemed pretty awful to most of us.  She was forced to stop because the outcry from the country was enormous.  From the beginning of her tenure she knew Trump was not happy with her performance.  He was frustrated by her inability to solve the problem at the border.  Although she never said it, she had to have been frustrated too because she was unable to please him.

Have you ever been in a situation where you know your boss is not pleased but you don’t know what to do?  I have and it is not pleasant! You know things are not going well for you and you don’t want to fail.  You may have a prestigious job, a high paying one or both so quitting is not easy. If you have a family to support your choices seem limited. You don’t want to lose your job but clearly you are not happy at work.

Trump along with lots of other people believes that It’s better to get forgiveness than permission.”  He is willing to break some rules to get to his goal.  The end justifies the means.  To work with him you will need to share his philosophy on rule breaking and be devoted to the same goal as he is.  The goal might have been important to Nielsen, but she was reluctant to break any rules to get there.  She followed his orders as she was asked but it didn’t solve the problem and it made things worse for her.

I know I have simplified this but there are two career issues here.  The first, Trump hired the wrong person for the job.  He relied on his new chief of staff who recommended her.  If the goal is important then you must have the right person to get the job done.  It is up to the boss to whom the person will report to find the right person for the job-one he/she is able to work with.

To make the situation worse he kept her in the job too long.  If you know the person isn’t right for the job, you need to admit the mistake and find a replacement quickly.

The second is that employees too must be self-aware enough to know who they can work for and whether they can do the job in the way the manager wants it done.   A job candidate must determine this before he/she accepts the job.  It requires research by the candidate to find out who the boss is, how he/she manages and how he/she treats employees. Once that is done the candidate needs to ask questions at the interview to evaluate the boss.

It is really difficult when you are in the job and then find out that your boss is someone whose style conflicts with yours.  That is what happened to me.  I’d gotten a promotion to work for a new boss who I knew would be difficult but for personal reasons I accepted the job. (Big mistake.)  In retrospect it would have been better to leave the company, but I stayed.  I had 2 difficult unhappy years until I finally was able to get a transfer to a new job.

There is no one style that is perfect for managers to have.  It is imperative that you find a manager you can work for.  To work well together the boss and the potential employee must have values and behavioral styles that compliment each other.  Each ought to ask him/herself “Can I work with this person to accomplish this goal?”

I would want to be sure the boss was as committed to helping me attain the goal as he/she was to attaining it him/herself.  I admit that it isn’t easy to get all the information you need, but it can be done and is definitely necessary to be happy at work!


What behavioral type is easiest for you to work with?
Want to understand better your behavioral style and how you like to communicate with others?  Want some quick tips on how to identify the behavioral style of others?  The DISC assessment is the answer.  Take this 15 minute assessment online and get back a 25 page report giving you information about your own style and how you can best work with others of different styles.  This assessment is invaluable for those looking for a new job and as well as those having a difficult time with their current manager.  If you want to find out more about this assessment and schedule a time to review the assessment with me, please email me at or call me at 617-240-5353.



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