It got into my head during BridgeGate. You might remember New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his staff dealing with the aftermath of an episode that could also be called Traffic Troubles and Retribution.
Closer to home, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is refusing to answer questions about an alleged ongoing violations of campaign laws when he was Milwaukee County Executive and running for governor. He had his campaign staff set up an alternate email system using laptops so that the emails would not be public record and so that his office staff could work on his campaign during their office hours, essentially working on his campaign while on the public dime – a violation of Wisconsin law.
Even closer to home, a local school district had a heartbreaker of a case where a teacher was mistreating students. A paraprofessional (teacher aide) in the class felt intimidated and feared she would lose her job if she reported the problems.
In all three cases, the workplace climate is key. In both governor’s offices, the philosophy seems to be “Do it; we’re above the law.” Both governors are still fighting the battle of “what they knew and when they knew it” and both have watched staffers take the fall for the events that broke the law. In the third case, the worried witness felt unsafe, intimidated, and basically bullied into submission.
Above the law.
Don’t question anything.
Don’t rock the boat.
Don’t even consider making waves.
Whether Gov. Christie knew of the bridge closing traffic-disrupting action, his workplace climate obviously encouraged retribution and demonstration of power.
Gov. Walker’s staff did as they were told. Whether he was the puppet or the one holding the strings, his office was another one with an inner circle that promoted and enjoyed the privilege of breaking laws without fearing consequences.
In the school district’s case, a follow up investigation seemed to say that the working climate was safe, open, and unintimidating. I have my doubts. This kind of office philosophy is harder to uncover than the Powers That Be might think. Fear runs deep.
And as we enter another election cycle and my phone starts ringing with volunteer opportunities, I have to ask myself: where do I stand? How far am I willing to go in order to expose this kind of workplace climate and participate in changing it for the better?
That’s a climate change I could handle.