Five Questions to Ask When Someone Leaves the Trump Administration

FiveThirtyEight has an interesting article about the questions we should ask when a high-level individual departs the Trump administration — whether they jump or are pushed.

The authors looked at Human resources literature in both the public and private sectors and interviewed experts to identify the five questions:

    • How long was this person in the job?
      “Turnover is unavoidable within the federal bureaucracy, and that’s not always a bad thing. In fact, political scientists agree that some changes in leadership are necessary for a functioning democracy. Frequent turnover, though, can create a number of problems, which is why it’s important to take a look at how long a departing leader has been in his or her position.”

  • Was the departure planned?
    One of the reasons that predictable government turnover isn’t typically more disruptive is that the workforce tends to know what to expect. Controversy-ridden departures, on the other hand, are difficult to plan for and may create a sense that any leader could be the next to go.
  • Is there a clear reason for the departure? Sometimes, senior leaders in the private sector are fired as a signal that an organization is responding to an internal problem. Ousting a high-profile official can, in some cases, make a president appear that he’s taking a problem seriously.
  • How senior is the person who is leaving? One important factor presidents often forget is that “organizations depend on teams, not just leaders, and when the most senior officials leave, like a Cabinet secretary or high-level aide, there’s a “cascading” effect as their hand-picked team members depart with them.
  • How easily can this person be replaced? In some cases, leadership turnover happens because the president realizes there’s a better person out there. But some senior leaders are more difficult to replace than others.

The article concludes:

Predicting what will happen in the second year of Trump’s presidency is a plainly futile mission. But the experts on turnover — regardless of whether they study the private or public sector — expressed concern about the effects of allowing the executive branch’s revolving door to continue to spin quickly. Some said they were worried about the impact of leadership turbulence and widespread vacancies on the federal workforce, while others said they were concerned about the growing public perception that the administration is in disarray.


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