Monday, June 12, 2017

What Did Comey Know?

Former FBI Director James Comey was totally shocked that after President Trump asked him if he liked his job and wanted to keep it, the President fired him.

Janet Guyon expresses shock and surprise that a seasoned and wily bureaucrat like Comey would not know the code. In the coded language of executives, overt expressions of confidence often mean that you are about to get fired. Questions about whether or not you like your job, coupled with suggestions that other people are vying for it are a sure sign that you are about to be shown the door.


Guyon lays out the case:

Those who have followed the ins and outs of corporate executive behavior for years, and experienced it ourselves, know that when a company puts out a statement like, “we have full confidence in our CEO,” that means the board is about to fire him or her. Examples are countless. In June of 2011, Yahoo’s board stated they had “full confidence” in Carol Bartz as CEO. In September, she was fired over the telephone by Yahoo’s chairman, Roy Rostock, one of the company’s co-founders.

On July 25, 2010, BP publicly stated that Tony Hayward, the CEO famous for running the company during the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill, “has the full support of the board,” only to announce the next day that US BP chief Bob Dudley would take over; Hayward had been still negotiating his severance package. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, under fire for the company’s sexist culture, “absolutely” had the full confidence of Uber’s board in March, according to director Arianna Huffington. While Kalanick is unlikely to be completely pushed out of management—he controls the board—Huffington now says there will be “restructuring of the management team,” including the hiring of a chief operating officer.

But, does the Trump team play by the same rules and employ the same coded language. Apparently, they do:

And on Feb. 13, Trump surrogate Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC that then-national security advisor Michael Flynn enjoyed the “full confidence of the president.” Flynn was toast the next day. 

The case of James Comey intrigues Guyon:

It’s curious that a man as sophisticated with the cut and thrust of political and corporate life wouldn’t understand, as Comey testified to Congress, that when a guy like Trump says stuff during a single dinner like asking whether he “wanted to stay on as FBI director,” that “lots of people wanted my job,” and “he would understand if I wanted to walk away,” that Trump was already telling him he wanted him out. For Comey to find this conversation “strange” rings as disingenuous.

Comey disingenuous… will surprises never cease.

Guyon continues:

“When there is a closed-door private conversation and management is saying, ‘I am confident about you but concerned about X,’ or ‘John is really gunning to take on this project,’ or ‘we have confidence in you, but we understand if this isn’t your skill set,’ those are red flags,” says Randi Melnick, an employment lawyer in New York. “That is a soft signal. That is a boss saying ‘Please don’t make me fire you.’ ”

So when your boss suggests you may want to leave your job, you know your days are numbered. Those employed “at will,” who can be fired without cause and at the boss’s whim, should begin documenting their meetings with said boss. That’s exactly what Comey did. Such memos can serve as ammunition when, for instance, one is negotiating severance pay. Or political payback. “Lots of people document things in some kind of hope that it will get them a reward down the road that may not come,” says Melnick.

The new angle on the Comey problem is intriguing, to say the least. Just because he didn't know, or pretended not to know, does not mean that we shouldn't.


Sam L. said...

Comey knew governmentese. Corporatese was not in his skill-set. Also, he was sure he was unfireable.

Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...

How short does my comment have to be?!

Of course Comey knew his job was in danger from Trump's words and actions. That's why he documented their conversations with his memos.

The fact that Trump is contradictory is a given, regardless of whether corporate psychology encourages this. Trump tried to lean on Comey and failed, and fired him, and we all know why, because Trump admitted the real reason after he made everyone else tell a false one. Comey's only job here was to protect the FBI and he succeeded as well as anyone could.