Donald Trump’s comments before a TV appearance in 2005, in an old recording carefully released just before the second TV debate, have ricocheted around the world. Some people have been very shocked. Some say they are not surprised, claiming that he has always flaunted his disregard for any notion of compassion, good manners and respect for fellow human beings.
In this latest case, his contempt for the woman he’s talking about, and for women in general, is obvious. Many people have pleaded that a man who takes this attitude to half the population is unfit to be President – of any country, let alone the United States. This is evident in the press and social media comments. But these arguments – like Trump’s flaws – go even deeper.
Misogyny As A Leadership Flaw
The deeper problem is that every misogynist is a misanthropist. In other words, a man who despises women, actually despises everyone. To make this clear, it may be necessary to separate the concept of misogyny – the hatred of women – from sexism, and political incorrectness.
Most people are guilty of political incorrectness from time to time. They use a word that could cause offence to certain groups because they can’t see the importance of avoiding it. Or they forgot that a certain comment is now
considered inappropriate – or they never knew. While some of these issues are significant, misogyny goes well beyond them.
Sexism, while a serious problem, does not imply hatred. Sexism is a social evil because it denies women justice, self-respect and peace of mind. But very few men (or women for that matter) could claim to be free of it. Even men who sincerely believe that women are their equals will make comments or assumptions that objectify, belittle or exclude women, especially when there are no women to overhear. These transgressions may be deliberate and conscious, or entirely unwitting, and their effects range from negligible to traumatic. However, a mildly sexist attitude is not in itself a sign of total bad character – most women who have had a father, brother, husband or male boss in the last fifty years would accept that.
But misogyny is a sign of bad character. It is deliberately callous. It involves taking a target group and reveling in your contempt of anyone in it – as Trump does on the recording. And anyone who has had to endure a work colleague of this kind will testify that the contempt extends to everyone – bar a select few men deemed worthy of his friendship. Yet a friend, for him, is just someone who agrees with his opinions, listens to his boring stories, and replies ‘You can say that again’ to each bigoted comment or boorish ‘joke’. And he does say it again – you can be sure of that. Misogynists are bullies.
Does it matter, though? If Trump can get the job done, should he prevented from doing it, just because he’s, basically, a horrible guy? That’s something for the American voters to ponder, but they may want to read this article from the Harvard Business Review – business, you will remember, being Trump’s supposed area of expertise.
The Financial Cost Of A Misogynist Leader
In the workplace, productivity declines in the face of rude, insulting and offensive behaviour. That may sound surprising, as we might have thought that a ‘tough’ boss who goes too far with his comments might at least get the upturn in output that any slavedriver does. But that’s not what the research suggests. The article’s writers, Pirath & Pearson, found that productivity dives and costs rise. Their surveys of workers showed that:
- 66% reported working to a lower standard, with 38% intentionally decreasing the quality of their work
- 80% spent work time worrying about the incident
- 78% said their commitment to the organization went down
Creativity is particularly hard hit, it would seem, as is team spirit – predictably. And it’s worth noting that even those who had merely witnessed an incident of incivility were affected – it doesn’t have to be directed at you to get you down. Customers are put off too: if they overhear rudeness between employees, they instantly become more reluctant to use that organization’s services.
When it comes to quantifying the cost, here is what the authors say about one international company, Cisco:
‘Some years back Cisco put together a detailed estimate of what incivility was costing the company. It factored in its reputation as a consistently great place to work, assumed an extremely low probability of rudeness among its employees, and looked at only three potential costs. Even in this exemplary workplace, it was estimated that incivility cost $12 million a year.’
All of this tells you what a disaster it would be to hire a misogynist – whatever his reputation for knocking heads together and getting stuff done. He’d go out of his way to put women down. No doubt there would be some other targets – the poor, the overweight, immigrants, or particular races that he distrusts. If the misogynist were the boss, the employees would leave in droves – if they were able to. And meanwhile, the costs would stack up.
Leader Of The Free World?
Now imagine the organization in question is the USA. According to the research, what effect would Trump have? Huge costs, for a start, given his unapologetic conduct up to now. And the employees in this case range from high-powered diplomats and strategists all the way to the teachers, cops and troops on the ground. Their morale would plummet, it would seem.
Admittedly, an article in a business journal does not prove the point or predict the future. And it could be argued that a nation is a very different thing from a large company. Trump voters had better hope it is different. But Trump keeps telling us it’s not. According to him, running a country is just like running a big company and that’s why America should let him do it.