Unit 5: Tips for President Trump to Minimize Groupthink in His Inner Circle

Image result for donald trump youre firedPresident Donald Trump is well known for his, “you’re fired”, on ABC’s Apprentice, so it should be no surprise that in his first year being President, there have been dozens of firings and resignations within his administration (Bump, 2018). Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe it means that he does not tolerate low quality work. Maybe this is a bad thing. Or maybe it means that he does not like to hear opinions that differ from his. If this is the case, when one surrounds themselves with people who are “yes-men” or people who generally agree, they start to form a cohesive unit which can lead to groupthink.

Is groupthink a negative thing though? Well, groupthink is a mode of thinking that a cohesive group engages in where the group members lose their realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action because of their desire for unanimity (Janis, 1983). Decide for yourself if this is negative to occur within a president’s administration. My answer would be yes, groupthink is negative.

Being so far removed from the presidency, I cannot assume that groupthink is occurring. What I will do though is recommend some tips backed by research which would apply to any cohesive group, including any presidential administration to include future administrations. But first lets look at the symptoms of groupthink.

According to research, the symptoms of group think are:

1. Illusion of Invulnerability

2. Belief in Inherent Morality of the Group

3. Collective Rationalizations

4. Stereotypes of Out-GroupsType

5. Self-Censorship

6. Illusion of Unanimity

7. Direct Pressure on Dissenters

8. Self-AppointedMindguard

(Janis, 1983, p. 257)

Are these symptoms occurring with President Trump’s administration? Only President Trump and his administration can answer this question. Hopefully, the answer is no. And hopefully, there is enough self-awareness there to answer this question honestly. If the answer is yes, or even if it is no, these tips can prevent groupthink from occurring now or in the future.

 

  • “Group leader should assign role of critical evaluator to each member.
  • Leader should be impartial and not state preferences prior to discussion.
  • Organization should set up independent groups to work on the same problem to compare possible solutions.
  • Group should occasionally break into subgroups to work on the problem.
  • Each group member should discuss group decisions with a trusted associate.
  • Outside experts should be invited to group meetings to challenge group views.
  • At least one member should be assigned the role of  ‘devil’s advocate’.
  • Group should survey rival group/competition’s warning signals.
  • After preliminary decision, group should have a second-chance meeting.” (PSU, n.d.)

Image result for donald trump 45I have to believe that President Trump is capable and willing to implement these recommendations to prevent groupthink from occurring within his inner circle and administration. Also, I would like to believe that future presidents will do so as well. Let us follow the lead of Abraham Lincoln, and his willingness to practice many of these tips that prevent groupthink.

 

“Lincoln understood the importance, as one delegate put it, of integrating “all the elements of the Republican party—including the impracticable, the Pharisees, the better-than-thou declaimers, the long-haired men and the short-haired women.”
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

“This, then, is a story of Lincoln’s political genius revealed through his extraordinary array of personal qualities that enabled him to form friendships with men who had previously opposed him; to repair injured feelings that, left untended, might have escalated into permanent hostility; to assume responsibility for the failures of subordinates; to share credit with ease; and to learn from mistakes. He possessed an acute understanding of the sources of power inherent in the presidency, an unparalleled ability to keep his governing coalition intact, a tough-minded appreciation of the need to protect his presidential prerogatives, and a masterful sense of timing.”
― Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

 

 

References:

Janis, I. L., (1983). Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Bump, P. (2018). Has Trump actually fired anyone as president?. Washington Post. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/03/19/has-trump-actually-fired-anyone-as-president/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a7f2d1610923

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. (2006). Team of rivals : the political genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York :Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. Retrieved from: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2861004-team-of-rivals-the-political-genius-of-abraham-lincoln

The Pennsylvania State University(PSU) (n.d.). Lesson 11 Preventing Groupthink. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1896721/pages/l13-arnauds-2010-definition?module_item_id=23792073

 

One Comment

  1. Ashli Brianna Baker April 22, 2018 at 6:48 PM #

    Christopher,

    I really likes how you focused on current leadership in relation to groupthink. You stated two ideas that I found interesting in your introduction:

    1. Does Donald Trump tolerate low quality work?
    2. Does he not like to hear oppinions that differ from his?

    In my opinion I think Donald Trump does not tolerate both of these ideas: low quality work and opinions that counter his ideals. Historically Donald Trump has been successful in navigating his own assets. What has changed in current time it that Trump now has to collaborate , very frequently, with other elected officials. Per Janis groupthink is,”a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action” (Janis, 1983, p. 9) (Janis, 1983). During Trumps time in office many people working within the presidential cabinet have been fired or quit due to disagreements that go against Trumps ideals. Below find an up-to-date list of individuals that have been fired or resigned from the Trump Administration:

    Fired:

    Sally Yates. Deputy attorney general. Days with administration: 11. Refused to enforce Trump’s entry ban.
    Preet Bharara. U.S. attorney. Days with administration: 51. Part of purge of U.S. attorneys.
    James B. Comey. FBI director. Days with administration: 110. Allegedly pressured by Trump to scale down investigations.
    Rich Higgins. Director, NSC. Days with administration: 176. Fired after writing a conspiracy-filled memo.
    Derek Harvey. Senior director, NSC. Days with administration: 182. Fired following power shift under national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
    Anthony Scaramucci. Communications director. Days with administration: 11. Fired by Kelly.

    Resigned under pressure

    Michael Flynn. National security adviser. Days with administration: 23. Ostensibly fired for having misled Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
    Katie Walsh. Deputy chief of staff. Days with administration: 68. Moved out of administration to work for a pro-Trump PAC.
    K.T. McFarland. Deputy national security adviser. Days with administration: 118. Pushed out following power shift under McMaster.
    Tera Dahl. Deputy chief of staff, NSC. Days with administration: 166. Reassigned following power shift under McMaster.
    Michael Short. Assistant press secretary. Days with administration: 185. Scaramucci told media that Short would be fired.
    Reince Priebus. Chief of staff. Days with administration: 188. Resigned in favor of Kelly.
    Ezra Cohen-Watnick. Senior director, NSC. Days with administration: 188. Resigned following power shift under McMaster.
    Stephen K. Bannon. Chief strategist. Days with administration: 209. Bannon left after giving a negative interview to American Prospect.
    Sebastian Gorka. Deputy assistant. Days with administration: 211. Butted heads with Kelly.
    William Bradford. Director, Energy. Days with administration: About 120. Past racist comments were made public.
    Tom Price. Director of Health and Human Services. Days with administration: 232. Under fire for taking expensive charter flights.
    Jamie Johnson. Director, DHS. Days with administration: About 230. Past racist comments were made public.
    Carl Higbie. Chief of external affairs, Corporation for National and Community Service. Days with administration: 153. Past racist comments were made public.
    Omarosa Manigault. Director of communications, Office of Public Liaison. Days with administration: 364. Resigned to “pursue other opportunities.” Now stars on CBS’s “Big Brother.”
    Taylor Weyeneth. Deputy chief of staff, Office of Drug Control Policy. Days with administration: About 340. Questions about experience and details on résumé.
    Rob Porter. Staff secretary. Days with administration: 385. Allegations of spousal abuse became public.

    Resigned

    “Michael Dubke. Communications director. Days with administration: 89. Personal reasons.
    Walter Shaub. Director of Office of Government Ethics. Days with administration: 181. Concern over ethics rules.
    Mark Corallo. Legal team spokesman. Days with administration: 59. Apparently concerned about handling of Trump Tower story.
    Sean Spicer. Press secretary. Days with administration: 181. Uncomfortable with hiring of Scaramucci.
    Elizabeth Southerland. Director, EPA. Days with administration: 193. Disagreement with direction of department.
    Carl Icahn. Special adviser. Days with administration: 211. Resigned in advance of an article about conflicts of interest.
    George Sifakis. Public liaison director. Days with administration: 204. Sifakis was an ally of Priebus.
    Maliz Beams. Counselor, State. Days with administration: 97. Reported differences with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
    Elizabeth Shackelford. Political officer, State. Days with administration: 323. Disagreement with direction of department.
    Paul Winfree. Deputy director. Days with administration: 330. Returning to Heritage Foundation.
    Dina Powell. Deputy national security adviser. Days with administration: 304. Personal reasons.
    Jeremy Katz. Deputy director, NEC. Days with administration: About 340. Personal reasons.
    Thomas Shannon. Under secretary of state for political affairs. Days with administration: 385 and counting. (Resignation announced but not yet in force.) Personal reasons.
    John Feeley. Ambassador to Panama. Days with administration: 385 and counting. Disagreement with administration.
    Rick Dearborn. Deputy chief of staff. Days with administration: 383 and counting. Joining private sector” (Bump, 2018).

    Approximately 37 people have been fired or resigned under the Trump Administration. I find it particularly interesting the individuals reasons for leaving. Most of them are from a disagreement.

    I believe that Trump forces groupthink within his presidency. Group think happens when a group of people are cohesive in ideas and values. In this case anyone who does not have cohesion with Trumps ideas and values have been canned. I wholeheartedly believe that administration members know what not what to say, what not to argue against and what not to comment on. Trumps administration turnover is the largest in history of any rookie (first-year) president. Are coercion and groupthink linked or can they be intertwined? It is a bold question but the facts state otherwise.

    References:
    Bump, P. (2018, February 08). Thirty-seven administration officials who’ve resigned or been fired under Trump. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/02/08/thirty-seven-administration-officials-whove-resigned-or-been-fired-under-trump/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.fb7f35f00f9e

    Janis, I. L., (1983). Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

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