The Trump effect on productivity (including mine)

I read the news today, oh boy

My confession: I am so appalled and alarmed by Donald Trump that he has had a negative impact on my productivity. It positively galls me to admit that this man has had that kind of influence on me for over two years.

Yesterday was a prime example. The momentous story that Trump chose to credit Russian president Vladimir Putin’s insistence that Russia did not interfere with the 2016 U.S. election, while largely dismissing the opposite findings of American law enforcement and intelligence agencies, left me stunned. It also meant that a chunk of my day was lost to reading news analyses online.

When it comes to Trump and my productivity, perhaps it doesn’t help that for nearly 20 years, I’ve steeped myself in research and commentary about bullying, dishonesty, bigotry, and abuses of power, especially in work settings. Some readers disagree with my assessment of Trump — every time I post negatively about him, I lose a few subscribers — but during the 30-plus years that I’ve been aware of him, I have yet to see any real evidence of empathy or kindness from the man. He is the consummate workplace bully and dishonest boss, and he is a master of gaslighting behaviors.

However, it’s not only a reaction to a certain personality type that pushes my buttons. I am alarmed by what I see transpiring on the national and international stages in terms of public policy. And I am deeply concerned that Trump is displaying a form of so-called leadership that others are emulating. He has been president for less than two years, yet I believe it will take at least a decade for us to recover from this.

Direct hit

Sometimes the Trump effect on my productivity has been about as direct as it gets, namely, on the very work I do concerning workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse.

Two summers ago, when Maureen Duffy and I were working on our co-edited book set, Workplace Bullying and Mobbing in the United States, the unfolding presidential campaign was so distressing and distracting that I sometimes had trouble staying focused on the project. (How ironic is that!?)

In January 2017, I was still so dazed and reeling from the November election that it took me by surprise that it was time to reintroduce the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill in the new session of the Massachusetts legislature. I did manage to pull myself out of my numbed state, but I was shaken that the election had such a profound impact on my psyche. (That won’t happen again.)

What to do?

Trump does what other deeply narcissistic, abusive types do so well. He sucks up our energy and attention in disproportionate amounts.

For those of us so affected, what are we to do? For starters, we need to be consciously aware of this impact. It means repeatedly reminding ourselves that many other important matters deserve our attention.

It can also mean taking the events of these times and turning them into lessons on how to change things for the better. For example, I’ll soon be sharing a draft of a law journal article that discusses how the Trump Administration’s policies and practices on immigration and health care have had especially traumatic effects on those directly affected by them. My longer range solution is that therapeutic jurisprudence — a school of philosophy and practice that embraces human dignity and psychologically healthy outcomes in the law — should be a framing perspective for making public policy.

Okay, I’m going to take a deep breath and publish this post. Then it’s back to other tasks, hopefully with fewer newsworthy distractions than yesterday. After all, bullies like it when others merely keep reacting to them. To advance human dignity in the face of contrary forces, we need to create our own agendas and pursue them.

10 responses

  1. Great take. Forget losing subscribers. I myself aon’d add much following, but I am not after a crowd, I am after an audience! And if only 1 influential person reads my words, it means more than a mass of people who are indifferent to issues like bullying.

    Keep writing.

    One question, how did you come to the subject of work bullying? Own experiences?

  2. I once read “Permitting your life to be taken over by another person is like
    letting the waiter eat your dinner.” In the end, we all just do the best we can…

  3. Thank you David for this post. It is exactly what we need to do. I grew up with a mother that behaved like Trump and I have severe PTSD. Even with recovery work since 1980, I still get affected by behaviors that are evil and I do believe that is what this is. The work that you are doing is toward healing the world. What Trump is doing is taking a wrecking ball to the safety measures that have been hard fought. My recovery is that we cannot control others, only ourselves and that is what you intend to do. You are a good leader!

    Here is some art that I do for recovery:

  4. David, Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about how the President’s behaviors have affected your work and your sensibility. You are spot on about the fact that Trump is a bully and extraordinarily gifted in manipulation. And you are absolutely correct in reminding us to learn from these events and continue in our agendas aimed at making this world a better place for all people and not for the chosen few at the expense of targeted groups.
    Having worked for these last 18 years representing union brothers and sisters, I have directly felt the impact of the distrust Trump has sewn. The conspiracy theories swallowed whole by so many Americans (even in Massachusetts) really are a testament to the cunning of Russian operatives as well as the naivety of media moguls and internet players.
    And through it all we have a man who bullied his way through to election, who lies, misstates, ignores reality, impunes the good name of Americans, blames the media for spreading “fake news”, encourages nazis and white supremacist groups and pitches his golf courses any chance he can. This is only the tip of the iceberg with this man.
    If history is any indicator of the future we have only the fact that Trump has gone bankrupt numerous (I believe eleven times.) in the past. He is bankrupting the Presidency now. And we must all wait and see how our elected “leaders” deal with him.
    Meanwhile, what can be salvaged from all of the harm and confusion that has been enabled by so many? I am thankful that we still have an election to look forward to. And you are right, showing the bully how he is impacting us is exactly what he is looking for. All they look for are signals that they are right and we are wrong. I have learned that bullies only stop when they are stopped from bullying.

  5. Greg and David, You are both right on point. I keep thinking that one thing we can do is boost turnout for the coming elections this year and in 2020. If like minded people all take that step collectively we can be a force and hopefully stop this bulldozer in his tracks. At the times that he is most repulsive and has the biggest impact on people it feels like being in a bullied workplace again. My body physically rejects him (and food). Changing gears to a positive reaction is our best road forward.
    One other thing we need to do is insure that our young people learn history and government so that they will have a good frame of reference within which to asses what is happening in the world around them.

  6. Like bullies everywhere, Trump relies on passive bystanders. Change will happen when people who are not directly feeling the impacts of his bad behaviour take action. The lessons of the Shoah- our obligations to each other, to truth, and to justice are critical. Forgetting the collective lessons of the past leaves us at risk- now and in the future.

    Those for whom the end justifies the means can be overcome by principled collective action. Process matters.

  7. Beautifully put, David. From my perspective, you have just administered a potent dose of the antidote! I was feeling as discouraged as anyone, but after reading your post, I feel so much better. (“Honest!”)

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