It’s likely once the media storm has passed we will hear from Madeleine Westerhout about her termination from the White House staff as Private Secretary to the President. From management and human resource angles, I’m eager to hear her perspective.
No doubt she learned that when you are in a sensitive position, regardless of what members of the media promise, NOTHING should be considered off the record. It’s their job to get close to the keepers of information. No matter how friendly individual members of the media become, they are NEVER your friend. You are a source. Plain and simple. It’s unlikely the group of reporters with whom she was drinking will be inviting her to get together regularly in the future just to all hang out. They were simply plying her for inside stuff.
It will be interesting to see if after the sting of being so publicly terminated has subsided how she viewed the events leading up to her being fired and how she feels about moving on. She is obviously very good at her job and must be a very intelligent person. After all, she’s performed admirably and for a lengthy period of time working for an individual with a mercurial temperament, juggling sensitive topics herself, managing the demands of equally sensitive personalities and functioning as a ringmaster of sorts in a political circus.
Don’t you wonder if the pressure of the job was getting to her in a way that would make it hard to walk away on her own? After all, it’s a resume showstopper position. She was working for the most powerful person on the planet with all the trappings, glitz and glamour and compensation only a handful of people could dream of attaining. But were there other things at play? Was she tired of the coddling the job must require? Was she conflicted about the impact of policies of which she had inside knowledge? Did those pressures outweigh the advantages of the job? Was getting fired a kind of professional death wish? I’ve come across a couple of situations in my career where the deliberate actions of individuals almost begged me to put them out of our mutual misery and fire them. They simply chose to act wildly inappropriately because they couldn’t bring themselves to quit. I look forward to the time she is prepared to speak about her departure to hear her side of the story.
As for Ms. Westerhout’s future, I expect she’ll be inundated with high level job offers and a few book deals. In her roll, all of her former boss’ contacts are in fact also her contacts. And I would bet many of them have a closer relationship with her than with him. Admittedly, some might be hesitant to hire her for fear of getting on the wrong side of her previous employer, but I suspect any number of people will see the value of hiring someone as savvy as she must be to orchestrate the workings of the inner circle.