Least Surprising Headline Of This Or Any Other Year: “Trump’s Team Nixed Ethics Course For White House Staff”

Of course they did.

Simulation of a typical ethics training session...

Simulation of a typical ethics training session…

From Politico:

President Donald Trump’s team rejected a course for senior White House staff, Cabinet nominees and other political appointees that would have provided training on leadership, ethics and management, according to documents obtained by POLITICO….But the contract was never awarded because after the election the transition team shifted its priorities, according to a letter the General Services Administration sent to bidders such as the Partnership for Public Service. The program was expected to cost $1 million, the documents show. The contract-based training program was authorized in 2000, and the Obama and Bush transitions both received the training.

“It has been determined that the requirements as defined in the RFQ do not accurately reflect the current needs of the Presidential Transition Team,” the GSA contracting officer, Matthew Gormley, wrote in the Jan. 10 letter.


1. Welcome to my world. With very, very rare exceptions, most organizations, including the government and all levels of it, still regard ethics training as a luxury, a low-priority, a necessary evil, a waste of time, or all of these.

2. And, to be fair, most ethics trainings, and I am certain this is true of virtually all government ethics training, cover ethics rules and laws, and provide no real training in ethical decision-making and ethical problem solving at all. This means that as far as actually improving the ethics of the staff and management goes, they are a waste of time.

3. If I’m not facilitating them, they are also usually tear-your-eyes-out-of-their-sockets boring.

4. Organizations, especially corporations, usually schedule ethics trainings only after a major ethics breach, scandal or catastrophe. Usually they claim that the new ethics commitment is permanent and will be annual and organization-wide, but management seldom follows through. Tragically, I speak from bitter experience.

5. Ethics training sessions are worthless if the leadership isn’t committed, involved and present. Do you think Bush or Obama attended these sessions for their staffs? Of course they didn’t. Would Trump have attended one? Never.

6. Again to be fair, if the training was going to be the same program the last two administrations got, I agree with the decision to skip them. Neither White House was sufficiently ethical. Whoever trained them should be investigated for training malpractice. The sad truth is that most ethics training companies are hacks, fakers and frauds, using off-the-shelf material and less interested in ethics than in giving the clients boilerplate while their audience day-dreams.

7. For the record, I would do a White House ethics and leadership training for the Trump White House at no charge, and require neither promotion nor publicity. It would be my pleasure and honor, because  heaven knows they need it, and the nation needs an executive branch that is as ethical as possible.

25 thoughts on “Least Surprising Headline Of This Or Any Other Year: “Trump’s Team Nixed Ethics Course For White House Staff”

  1. Jack wrote, For the record, I would do a White House ethics and leadership training for the Trump White House at no charge, and require neither promotion nor publicity. It would be my pleasure and honor, because heaven knows they need it, and the nation needs an executive branch that is as ethical as possible.”

    I think “someone” suggested that a while back and offered to help pay for expenses. 😉

  2. I have been to many professional development courses designed to elevate thoughtfulness in decision making. Never have senior administrators participated. Your observations are spot on.

    For senior college administrators the decision criteria always is based on how the decision is expected to be viewed by the Trustees. More often than not the administrators are covering their asses and the right and ethical decision takes a back seat.

  3. So many of the mandatory courses required by organizations are simply pre-peremptory legal defense strategies. They exist so that an organization member/employee can give a satisfactory answer in a deposition or on the stand when asked by an attorney: “Did you receive any training in…workplace safety; sexual harassment; document security; ethical standards; CPR; etc.”.
    They are frequently instituted after a catastrophe (point #4. above), and frequently exempt all but the lower level staff (point #5. above). There may be a momentary urge to make the most of it, and try to do it well, but that tends to degrade quickly in the face of expense and inconvenience. All those required to participate must do so in addition to their regular duties, so it’s in the organization’s interest to check the box as quickly and cheaply as possible, so that the answer to the opposing counsel can be: “Why yes, I DID receive training in that thing.”

    • #4 is endemic in every area, especially schools, for one. They get professional attention immediately after the death of a student, particularly a suicide. There is rarely any follow up at all, even as a free service (can’t fit it into the student schedule; can’t find a spare room to use, etc.) Then the parents and school administrators are stunned when the inevitable “copycat” suicides follow.

  4. I don’t know, I found today’s headlines about yet another Trump pick lying about his contacts with Russia even less surprising.

    • If I recall correctly, the only wrongdoing that the Russians were accused of — aside from publishing unkind articles about Hillary on their Russia Today website and the like — was hacking the DNC emails. Even supposing that the accusations of “lying” about contacts with Russia were true, what do zealous Trump-haters imagine these meetings were about? Do they pretend that a dozen or more people associated with Trump today, including some who had only the most tenuous association with him at the time, met repeatedly throughout 2016 with Russian agents at every level of seniority in order to persuade the KGB (or whatever it’s called these days) to do a childishly simple hack that they would have been inclined to do anyway? Despite the fact that Trump’s people had no way of knowing whether the hack would produce anything useful?

      • “what do zealous Trump-haters imagine these meetings were about? “

        I think there was a lot of sitting around twirling their mustachios between their fingers while sliding fat wads of cash across the table in a brown paper sack all while answering the question “How is the weather in Spain?” with “Do you have a light?”.

      • I don’t know what the meetings were about. But because Trump officials keep lying about their existence, I definitely think there needs to be an investigation.

        How can you forget the other major bit of wrongdoing the Russians have been accused of–using incriminating information about Trump to win his favor? As of now there is no hard evidence of this information, though other parts of the infamous dossier has been confirmed. But given Trump’s behavior regarding Russia, I find it plausible. He has been given multiple opportunities to condemn Putin’s crimes, by people on the left and right, and every time he refuses to do it, while also heaping praise on the dictator. If you ask yourself “Does Trump act like someone who is being manipulated by Putin?” I don’t see how any honest observer could answer anything but “Yes.”

              • Objective crowds insist that the wispy stuff is just dudes who’s jobs consistently put them in contact with foreign governments probably have contacts with foreign governments.

                The horrors.

                Someone really needs to just drum up every last contact between every individual left winger and anyone in the Russian government and be done with it.

                Oh wait… the average conservative can be relied upon to play by most of the agreed upon rules.

                Well that’s a changin also.

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