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Advice for Those Weighing Jobs in the Trump Administration

Some 40 people were indicted as a result of the Watergate scandal. Among those sentenced to prison: the attorney general of the United States, the White House counsel, and President Nixon’s two most senior White House aides. A dozen men were convicted or pled guilty to a range of charges after the Iran-Contra affair. 

White Houses can be dangerous places under leadership that does not respect the law. When friends ask me, “Should I accept a job under President Trump?” it’s not merely a philosophical question. Answer the question wrong, and they may find themselves two or three years later facing a congressional investigation or possibly even a grand jury. Even those who never face charges—let alone conviction—can see their lives up-ended: As the saying goes, in Washington, the process is the punishment.

So how should a public-spirited person respond to an invitation to serve the country during the Trump years?

Let’s start by assessing the four basic risks: 

1) This administration has begun its career by shredding post-Watergate ethical standards. Trump has not effectively severed his connections to his business interests. He will not release his tax returns. The Trump Organization seems—at best...

10 Tips for Federal Employees on the Personal Use Of Social Media

On Monday, the Federal Communicators Network Professional Standards Working Group released social media tips for federal employees. I am part of the steering committee and a volunteer in this effort to promote the development of governmentwide standards for professional conduct and quality communication.

Disclaimer: The tips below are meant to help clarify some issues that federal employees may not be aware of, or that may be confusing. The list is not meant to replace a thorough review of law, policy, and official guidance or to restrict or alter federal employees' rights and responsibilities in any way. When in doubt, please do not use this as a substitute for obtaining reliable direction from an official source.

Like all FCN documents, this is unofficial in nature; volunteers' opinions, as well as publications, do not represent official guidance, the views of their federal agencies, or the views of the government as a whole.

These tips may be freely reproduced and distributed. If you do so, please include the disclaimer above so that readers are not misled into thinking that this is an official government document.

The 10 Tips

  1. First Amendment Rights: Your personal social media profiles are your own, and for the most...

Don’t Set Goals For Yourself — Instead, Create Systems That Make It Easy For You to Succeed

A lot of my friends are spending the month of January “going dry” or giving up sugar or training for marathons. I can relate. As a Type-A, goal-oriented masochist, I tend to make deeply ambitious New Year’s resolutions each year. Witness Exhibit A: My resolutions from 2016. I’m embarrassed to say that not one lasted even a month. (That’s what you get when you resolve to limit dessert in terms of “units per week.”)

So this year, I decided to give up on making resolutions altogether. Instead, I devised my own system to help me lead a life that’s in keeping with my values. I call it my Intentionality Dashboard.

I created the dashboard because I’d found that it was hard to stick to goals like “eat healthier” or “exercise more” on their own; to make these kinds of changes, I needed a specific plan of action. And as Dilbert creator Scott Adams explains on his blog, we’re actually much more likely to succeed in changing our habits when we use systems instead of goals. After all, goals tend to be somewhat constricted—say, “lose 10 pounds” or “beat my marathon record”—when it...

The Top 10 Reasons People Are Denied a Security Clearance

In 2016, the Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals held 1,142 security clearance appeals hearings. They made decisions on security clearance eligibility, placement into public trust positions and Common Access Card denials. If you are denied a security clearance or your security clearance is revoked due to adverse information that has been discovered or self-reported, you have the right to appeal the decision before DOHA. A study of the cases and their outcomes offers a good chance to see the trends in security clearance denials, and what issues are likely to cause issues in your own background investigation.

Among the things you discover if you study DOHA cases for very long: Many cases look very similar and the primary issues remain the same from year to year. Here’s an overview of the top 10 issues that appeared before the board in 2016:

Adjudicative Guideline (2015/2016)                       

Guideline F: Financial Considerations (499/864)

Guideline E: Personal Conduct (225/257)

Guideline H: Drug Involvement (122/102)

Guideline B: Foreign Influence (87/78)

Guideline J: Criminal Conduct (70/61)

Guideline G: Alcohol Consumption (59/47)

Guideline C: Foreign Preference (41/45)

Guideline K: Handling Protected Information (8/16)

Guideline M: Use...

How to Deal With a New Boss

Adjusting to a new boss is never easy. It’s a lot harder when the new guy has spent years vilifying your last boss, and smear the work of you and your colleagues.

Yet that’s the predicament facing about 50 holdovers from the Obama administration who will be working for Donald Trump starting today after he becomes the 45th president of the United States. Most of them are in essential State Department and national security positions (paywall).

Most of them expect to be replaced in the coming weeks and months. But if they want a healthy working relationship with Trump, they would be wise to follow some basic principles that all employees can use when adjusting to a new manager.

  • Get off on the right foot. First impressions matter, and you want to make a good one. Be welcoming and look for common ground that might help break the ice
  • Be empathetic. You new boss will have lots to learn, and will need help getting up speed. Try to anticipate what will make their job easier. Karen Dillon, the former editor of the Harvard Business Review, recalled that when she was a new boss, one of the new employees...

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