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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Monday 22 July 2013

The PMO's revolving door: Why Harper has a staffing problem (Don Martin)

Stephen Harper's government has recognized the impact of occupational mental health on performance, productivity and individual well-being; they even created voluntary standards.
Maybe it's time they implement them internally.  Leaders practice what they preach, etc.
The PMO's revolving door: Why Harper has a staffing problem

Stephen Harper Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves to people after speaking at the opening of the World French Language Forum Monday, July 2, 2012 in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Don Martin, Power Play Host                                      
Published Friday, July 19, 2013 1:59PM EDT                                     
The Prime Minister has a staffing problem: Stephen Harper has trouble keeping them.
The soundtrack of the PMO is the combination of boxes being packed and the whirling noise of a revolving door as barely-started staff move on, voluntarily or otherwise.
The latest to be reassigned from the overheated PMO kitchen is one Chris Woodcock. Never heard of him? Me neither.
He was head of issues management which, coupled with communications, represents PMO Control Freak Central.
What prompted Woodcock to be barge-poled away from the Prime Minister was allegedly being linked -- directly or indirectly -- to the Mike Duffy affair and the much-maligned senator’s monetary bailout by Harper’s top aide.
Thus, to illustrate the busy departure lounge in the PMO, a former issues manager joins a former legal adviser as the two departing PMO staff who knew about a cheque from a former chief of staff to a former Conservative senator to pay off improper housing claims.
This exodus is not just a recent phenomenon.
After seven years as Prime Minister, Harper is now on his fourth chief of staff and his sixth (and best) director of communications. (Nobody expects workaholic Andrew MacDougall will set the mouthpiece longevity record by sticking around until the 2015 election.)
About the only staffing constant is the long-suffering couple who have toiled as Harper’s grin-and-grip photographers for about ten years. 
Partially driving the turnover is the fact Harper’s not exactly an empathetic boss. He works insanely hard and expects the same from everyone inside his organizational chart. Being in the PMO is seen as sufficient compensation for all those long seven-day workweeks tethered to a Blackberry.
(The parting gift for a middle manager who couldn’t take the endless overtime and working weekends any longer was to have Harper breeze into her office with official photographer in tow for a pose and a handshake. Total time for the sendoff: one awkward minute).
But what’s worse than having little lingering political memory in the PMO is how the ones who last the longest seem to be the paranoid powertrippers who are causing so much trouble.
They do silly things like anonymously leak smear material on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and get carried away by advising new ministers to craft enemy lists. They are the Koolaid-drinking true believers who notoriously bully senior political and public servant staff, which has morale sliding throughout government ranks.
That’s the real staffing problem confronting Harper. The good ones quit.
Those who thrive inside the PMO bunker relish their power and see non-existent enemies lurking behind every grassy knoll on Parliament Hill.


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