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Ethics under fire
Can HR learn anything from the experiences
of former FBI director James Comey?
BY MIKAELA DERY
A HIGHER LOYALTY
TRUTH, LIES AND
BY JAMES COMEY
When James Comey first
released memos detailing his
dealings with Donald Trump,
readers were agog at tales of Russian collusion, a
mentally unfit president and alleged golden showers.
A Higher Loyalty is a similar mix of elegant
prose and shocking insights into a confounding
White House. However, unike the memos,
Comey is able to go beyond the headline
grabbing inner workings of Washington, and
ruminate on the challenges of high-pressure
morally complex work environments. With the
benefit of hindsight, he crafts a complex message
about leading with integrity, managing people in
a chaotic workplace and examining one’s own
ethics in high pressure situations.
In interviews he has given about the book
Comey often cites a tweet that one of his children
showed him. “That Comey is such a political
hack,” it read. “I just can’t figure out which
party.” It has, Comey says, become a sou rce
of pride that he has remained bipartisan in his
But while this quality might be required of a
director of the FBI, it causes the book to stumble
when it gets into prickly areas. For instance, his
handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation.
During the middle of the election campaign,
Comey held a press conference explaining that
Clinton would not be charged. Then, mere days
before voting began, Comey let it be known
the FBI had found new evidence – emails on
an aide’s husband’s computer. Many people,
including Clinton herself, believe this
unprecedented announcement was decisive in
her losing to Trump.
Making matters more complicated, it has
since been revealed that not only was the
evidence worthless, but a similarly contentious
investigation of her opponent had been ongoing
at the time, and Comey made the decision to
keep it from the public.
In the book he remains resolute. He says he
was certain Clinton would win the election and
he made the investigation public so as not to
invalidate her presidency. But even knowing that
his assumption was incorrect, he says that he
would not change his actions.
His explanation of one of the most ethically
complex parts of his career is flimsy, at best.
Comey’s failure to meaningfully reflect on his
actions colours much of the advice he attempts to
impart throughout the memoir.
The critique of former Obama aide John
Lovett that Comey “isn’t ethical, he wants to
seem ethical”, is harsh but, one that is worth
considering while reading.
A more sympathetic analysis of Comey is
that he strives to be ethical, and falters. The
acknowledgment of their human weaknesses can
make great leaders even more compelling. It’s
this most challenging test that Comey fails. •••
Gain practical skills to solve ethical dilemmas at
work with AHRI’s corporate course
‘ Workplace ethics’. ahri.com.au/ethicsatwork
THE VALUES OF
SILENCE IN BUSINESS
BY MICHEL ANTEBY
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
PRESS, 2013 $26
Can creating a setting for MBA students
where ethical training is part of the air
they breathe equip future executives
with staunch moral standards? Harvard
associate business professor Michel Anteby
thinks so. Unusually interesting because of
his viewpoint, but not a casual read.
THE POWER OF TRUTH
TELLING WITH YOUR
BOSS, PEERS, AND TEAM
BY MINDY MACKENZIE,
GREENLEAF BOOK GROUP,
Mindy Macken zie knows the value of courage.
Abused as a child, she found the only way she
could maintain her sanity was to excel at every
stage of her life. As an H R specialist at Walmart
(among others) she was often the only senior
female executive in the room. She attributes
her success to bravery and “truth telling,” and
explains why these attributes matter to your
career and personal life, even when they
are hard to muster. She includes practical
strategies, exercises, lists and worksheets to
help you build your courage.
21/6/18 5:45 pm
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