[September 3, 2020] I have no idea how she lasted so long as a senior civilian working for the Department of the Army. Beatty Jones (not her real name) held a prominent, high-ranking job in a 2-star U.S. Army command headquarters. But it was her personal philosophy that rules were not for her but only for the little people, meaning those she outranked.1
It is difficult to deconstruct and explain how a person could develop to this point. Her position was not what we call “high visibility,” yet she was the third highest-paid employee at the headquarters. What she said and did in meetings indeed drew attention to her ideas that rules and various formalized procedures and systems did not apply to her.
Senior Army officers at that headquarters knew that this civilian was a “problem” but would not act to take corrective action. There are at least three reasons for their failure. I will add, as a side note, that three of the General officers eventually had their careers ended in this leadership debacle. The civilian was fired.
There is little tolerance for anyone, especially for senior military and civilian leaders, to create, perpetuate, or allow a climate that puts a few above others. Here are the reasons under which such this situation occurred here:
- Cowardice: The troubled civilian was a black female. All other senior leaders were white males. She had already filed a formal complaint against one General officer for racism and harassment (later fully exonerated). In our current PC Climate, it was simply easier for military officers to ignore her and not subject themselves to endless investigations. This failure to act correctly was nothing but classical moral cowardice.
2. Culture of no accountability for Senior Leaders. It is hard to imagine that leaders anywhere are not held to high standards of behavior, but that was a long-held practice at this headquarters. Everyone knew the score and just had to live with it, or they were ostracized or professionally punished. No leader was willing to buck the system.
3. Lack of Respect. When leaders don’t respect subordinates – or their peers for whatever reason – then what follows will always be bad. Those who disrespect others are also more likely to a) avoid people, b) be undisciplined, c) be bitter at work, d) haven’t thought through tomorrow, e) don’t regulate their own life, etc. The lack of respect acts like cancer by spreading throughout the organization, destroying lives along the way.2
Too many leaders believe that rules are for the little people. Call it narcissism or stupidity; the fact is that such behavior exists and there has been nothing the U.S. military has been able to do that was effective against it.