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Why Trump wasn't greeted by a pile of resignations at the Oval Office door

Quitting is hard - but it's often the easy way out
Trump-Putin meeting
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

By Todd Humber

Quitting a job is seldom easy. It can be stressful, terrifying and unsettling as you wonder when (and from where) the next paycheque is coming.

Sometimes, though, walking away is the only palatable option. Maybe it’s the commute, the toxic culture or the fact your boss is a sociopath.

In my early days covering the profession, a human resources executive I met did just that — she handed in her resignation letter after realizing the new CEO at her company was never going to understand the benefits of good HR.

She had tried to bend his ear, to make the case for investment in people, but it was fruitless. I still remember the gist of what she said — “If you can’t stand the culture, and you can’t get the CEO on board to change it, you have to cut your losses and leave. Otherwise, you’re banging your head against the wall and who wants to have that as a career?”

Some people in Washington, D.C., are undoubtedly struggling with the same question today. I’m no fan of Donald Trump, but he is surrounded by some very intelligent professionals who have built extraordinary careers.

This is not a political comment. (Though many on the right will predictably call me out on it as such.)

This is not a left-leaning point of view. (Though many on the left will predictably praise me for saying it.)

It is a straightforward workplace observation. And it is this: I could never work for a leader like Trump.

The qualities on display — pettiness, selfishness, small-minded thinking — are not inspiring in a fast-food restaurant manager, let alone the so-called leader of the free world.

If my CEO stepped into the spotlight and repeatedly questioned the conclusions of myself and my team, despite overwhelming proof we had done our job properly, I would not stay long at the organization.

But since taking office, that’s what Trump has been doing to his intelligence and law enforcement teams. And it’s only getting worse — because yesterday he did it with an adversary by his side. In the wake of Trump’s disgraceful (some say treasonous) performance at the press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin, it’s surprising there wasn’t a pile of resignations waiting outside the oval office to greet him on his return.

There is only one reason I can fathom that these talented and accomplished professionals are sticking around, and it has nothing to do with Trump. It’s a higher loyalty to their country, and some legitimate fear that some sane voices need to stay on the wall — to use a dated movie reference — until this presidency has run its course.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, put out a strong statement Monday after Trump inexplicably disputed his own intelligence agencies and took Putin’s word (again) that Russia was not involved in hacking and meddling in the last U.S. election.

“We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security,” said Coats.

I don’t need to be a CSIS-trained analyst to read between those lines. His message to the president, and to the American people, was clear. “I’m not going anywhere and I will continue to do my job properly despite the admonitions and unpredictable behaviour of my boss.”

Quitting is hard. But it’s often the easy way out. Sticking around, in the face of bad leadership because you so strongly believe in the organization and its purpose — risking your own personal reputation and career — is infinitely harder.

And extremely laudable.

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Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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