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Don Draper is not to be emulated

If I was a business consultant, the first thing I might do is assemble anyone who manages anyone and show them several episodes of Mad Men.

Afterward, I would say, “Did you watch Don Draper closely? Don’t do any of that stuff, and you'll be fine. You may go back to work now.”

It’s a lesson that might be fitting for Pinellas County’s chief information officer (read: head techno geek) Martin Rose, who has gotten into a bit of a pickle in his dealings with his staff.

There are two lessons here for supervisors. First, you are never as funny as you think. Second, it is not a good idea to socialize too much with your subordinates, especially if it involves a bar tab. Oh, and here’s a third — this is 2015, not 1960. Attitudes about what constitutes crossing a line of propriety have changed.

Rose, who makes $167,107 a year (so he probably knows a great deal about computer stuff, but alas, somewhat less about social graces) is being investigated by the county’s human resources department for his on-and-off-the-clock behavior.

The county’s Office of Human Rights had investigated Rose over an allegation of workplace sexual harassment and determined there was not enough evidence to support the charge. But Rose’s written responses annoyed County Administrator Mark Woodard, who found them to be “angry, personal and, most troubling, I found that there was no personal responsibility taken by Mr. Rose in all of this.”

Memo to Rose: When your $167,107 paycheck might be on the line, a little groveling never hurts.

In his interactions with Woodard, Rose attempted to blame his woes on “the culture” within the information office, only to be reminded by the country administrator that a department head is the one who establishes the dominant culture of the workplace. And on that point, Woodard noted Rose’s penchant for making fun of workers’ clothing and after-work cocktails with his employees didn’t exactly lift the culture of his agency.

Second memo to Rose: Have you thought about confining your interpersonal relationships with your employees to lunch? Or better yet, coffee in the cafeteria?

It’s possible Rose is not entirely wrong about the “culture” within his department. An outsider to the information services department, Rose won the job over another applicant, Jim Russell, a longtime employee. Now Russell reports to Rose.

In any work environment, political alliances are formed. So are schisms. It’s the art of management to successfully navigate those psychological shoals. So it was likely not a very endearing move to come into the job and start cracking wise with underlings and making snarky fashion comments.

It would appear that at least for the moment, Rose has survived (perhaps just barely) the investigation into his management skills and been given a second chance to improve his performance.

Third memo to Rose: You’re overseeing a vitally important taxpayer-supported agency intrinsic to making things operate efficiently. It’s the information office — not “The Real Housewives of Pinellas County Government.”

That means less melodrama, more software.

Daniel Ruth is a Tampa Bay Times columnist.

c. 2015 Tampa Bay Times

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