Career Lessons From the Presidential Turkey Pardon

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Obama Turkey Pardon
APBegging your pardon, Mr. President.


One of the mainstays of Thanksgiving in the United States is the annual presidential pardon of a live turkey (redundant because pardon is a moot point if the bird is already in your grocer's freezer). We've all seen the President come to a podium on the White House lawn on Thanksgiving morning and grant a pardon to a turkey, giving the turkey a new lease on life instead of losing it like about a million unpardoned turkeys who wind up stuffed and basted on your double-pedestal dining room table with leaves lengthening it for extended family and company. The President conducts the ceremony outside the White House presumably because the Press Room carpet could get messy if the turkey were escorted inside.

Like so many of life's little pleasures, there are lessons in leadership to be learned from the annual Presidential Turkey Pardon. First up is the whole issue of institutional authority. The President of the United States of America has the authority to pardon a turkey because such authority has been vested in the office by the people of the United States of America. The President could choose to end the turkey's life if he chooses to because there is no law against ending a turkey's life, save for cruelty to animals. If there were such a turkey-friendly law, Thanksgiving would be cancelled.Your boss can also figuratively end your career (at your present firm anyway) because there is no law against that either. Your boss can also pardon you for a whole range of non-felony offenses because such power has been vested in his or her position by the Kahunas of the organization, upon whose bank account your paycheck is drawn. The boss gives and the boss taketh away. The same boss who can engage in groupthink all by his lonesome can try, convict, sentence, and terminate you without much external approval, too.

Secondly, the best way to stay out the pardon business altogether, if you're a boss, is to stop treating your employees like turkeys. Your employees are your most valuable assets and they have, in all likelihood, saved you from needing a pardon from the next boss up the food chain a time or two. The best way for worker bees to stay out of the pardon scenario is to not act like turkeys. Study the habits and attitudes of the American eagle, for example. Show up at the office with the sharpness and focus of an eagle the Monday after Thanksgiving (eagles can read the New York times from a quarter-mile away--that's focus--is it any wonder that they can spot a mongoose or your house cat from 10,000 feet?) and your boss is likely to look at you cross-eyed and ask, "Who are you and what did you do with the turkey that left here last Wednesday?"

Happy Thanksgiving!
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