Making the click-through worthwhile: An observation that America’s employers run aground when they start evaluating their employees on their political views on social media rather than the ability to do the work well; President Trump rages, although it’s not clear what all this public raging is doing for him; Trump allies boast they’ve accumulated a lot of damaging information on reporters critical of the president; and what Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement teaches us about life.
Remember When Workplaces Were About . . . Work?
Google just changed the “community guidelines” for the company’s message board: “While sharing information and ideas with colleagues helps build community, disrupting the workday to have a raging debate over politics or the latest news story does not. Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics.” This comes shortly after some more than 1,300 Google workers signed a petition demanding the company publicly commit to not working with Customs and Border Protection.
Simultaneously, a group of Trump allies is assembling information about reporters it deems hostile to the administration and boasting that they have unearthed potentially ‘fireable’ information on ‘several hundred’ people.” (More on this below.)
Perhaps the Google company guidelines changing is a revealing moment where companies started to realize their workplaces were getting too politically tense. A world where everyone wears their political agenda on their sleeve and sees themselves as an evangelist for their particular political worldview is going to inevitably create friction. People take offense, contending that their coworkers are creating those dreaded words: “a hostile work environment.”
The idea that a viewpoint expressed outside of the workplace could cost you your job was much rarer a generation ago, and not merely because Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. People still had all kinds of views, and all kinds of controversial views; they just didn’t have a format to express those views in a way that created a permanent record which could later be cited justification for firing them.
For a very long time, an employer’s primary and arguably only evaluation for an employee was how well they did the job. Picture a widget factory, where most of the workforce puts together widgets on an assembly line:
“Boss, we just learned that Jenkins has all kinds of strange beliefs and views. He believes that the moon is made of green cheese, that God is a giant squid who lives at the bottom of the oceans, that the monarchy should be restored and that Bigfoot is the Queen of England in disguise, and that anyone with the letter ‘f’ in their name is likely to become a zombie after death.”
“Does Jenkins still do his job well on the widget assembly line?”
“Then shut up, leave Jenkins alone unless he creates a problem with his coworkers, and get the heck out of my office.”
In the vast majority of cases, your beliefs, attitudes, and views were simply not part of your job. If you expressed them enough on the job, it was possible you could create enough friction and problems to get fired. But by and large your employer didn’t care; the measurement was how well you assembled your widgets, drove your truck, analyzed the sales data, won your lawsuits, etc. A generation ago, people were more circumspect about their personal beliefs and views. In the old Peanuts comic strip, Linus used to lament, “there are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.” More people had the good sense to recognize that the workplace probably involved different views, and it was rarely worth it to stir up the divisions between those views.
While employers have a responsibility to set up a safe workplace environment, an employee’s personal views were just that – personal. Then someone – the angry Left? Bored social media mobs in general? – created this concept that employing someone with a controversial view meant the company was endorsing that particular view. That’s nonsense, of course; the hiring process rarely involves a complicated questionnaire determining the potential hire’s perspective on every controversial topic under the sun.
More employers need to emphasize to their employees that the purpose of the company is not activism; it’s creating and selling their products and services. (Notice I didn’t say merely “making money.”) Sure, the company has a stake in the country and society, and has certain responsibilities to ensure that the world outside the company office windows is in good shape – environmental responsibilities, charitable contributions, ensuring their workers are healthy and have a manageable work-life balance. But it’s not the company’s role to ensure one party wins elections, that one viewpoint on hot-button issues prevails, or that some other viewpoint is squeezed out of public life. And if a company does decide to become a giant political action committee that sells products on the side, it ought to be open about it and be generous with the severance packages of employees who choose to find work elsewhere.
Finally, why is it that the same people who fume about “big corporations” and who devour cyberpunk depictions of ruthless corporations ruling society also want their companies to become more politically active?
There Is Only Winning, There Is No Understanding.
The editors of National Review are exhausted with presidential tweets, from asking whether Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell or Chinese leader Chairman Xi is the bigger enemy, to “hereby ordering” private companies to look for alternatives to operations in China. (If Fed chairman Powell is indeed an enemy of the United States, then whatever fool appointed him to that position should resign in disgrace.)
Rod Dreher is exhausted from the president behaving like “a clown who refuses to meet with the prime minister of Denmark because she won’t sell him Greenland.”
Last week, Bret Baier of Fox News felt the need to respond to the president’s public complaints that Fox had “changed” and that its polls were always the least positive for him.
“Fox has not changed,” Baier said after airing the president’s comments. “We have a news side and an opinion side. Opinion folks express their opinions. We do polls. Our latest poll had the Democratic candidates head to head, several of them ahead of President Trump, and this poll tracks exactly what the RealClearPolitics average of polls — even a little the other way — and this poll matches what we are seeing out there.” Panelists Susan Page, Ben Domenech and Chris Stirewalt concurred.
None of the people listed above are knee-jerk Trump critics.
Shortly after the president declared that Jews who vote for Democrats are being disloyal to Israel, our old friend Byron York – again, hardly a knee-jerk Trump critic, responded, “the president should really stop talking about loyalty and disloyalty and who he thinks is loyal and who he thinks is disloyal.” (Come on, surely the man who hired Omarosa, Michael Cohen and Anthony Scaramucci no doubt can spot loyalty when he sees it! Even Mollie Hemingway acknowledges that bad hiring decisions are one of the fairest arguments against Trump.)
A lot of people, who really want to see America thrive, who want to see more conservative policies enacted, more good judges appointed, and who want to see the president succeed are getting tired of his daily drama.
“He fights!” No, he throws public tantrums on Twitter and calls people names. If calling people names is your idea of fighting, you either perceive a lot more victories than you actually have, or you may secretly feel that despite all of your “fighting,” you rarely seem to get what you want. The Twitter tirades may make Trump feel better and excite his diehard fanbase, but it doesn’t really do much to “defeat” whoever he’s fighting with at any given moment.
You notice no one is really that afraid of Trump anymore. Right before his trip, Trump proposed adding Russia to the G-7 again; European Council President Donald Tusk publicly declared that there were even more reasons than before to keep Russia out, and rebuked Trump for suggesting that Russia’s occupation of Crimea was justified. Trump reportedly pushed for Russia’s readmission into the G7 Sunday night, and only the outgoing Italian prime minister agreed. Again, Boris Johnson is probably the most pro-Trump prime minister of the United Kingdom that the president is ever going to get, and he’s spending his time pushing for a change that no prime minister could ever accept. Remember that little controversy about the Russian government using a nerve agent to kill a defector on British soil and injuring and killing innocent people in the process?
Powell is pursuing the course of action he sees as correct, ignoring Trump’s public rage and declaring, “Trade policy uncertainty seems to be playing a role in the global slowdown and in weak manufacturing and capital spending in the United States.”
Speaking of trade, the president toggles between two positions; that he’s taking the toughest and hardest line of any president ever, and that other countries are eager to make a great deal. Trump declared of China, “I think they want to make a deal much more than I do.”
This statement comes a few days after China imposed $75 billion in tariffs and plans to resume tariffs on U.S. automobiles and automobile parts in December; this comes after the Trump administration announced it would impose 10 percent tariffs on Chinese imports worth $300 billion. Does this seem like a regime eager to make a deal? Or a regime eager to inflict as much economic pain on the United States as possible, to ensure Trump departs the scene, and they have someone else to negotiate with?
What Kind of ‘Damaging Information’ Are We Talking About?
The New York Times reports, with bristling indignation:
A loose network of conservative operatives allied with the White House is pursuing what they say will be an aggressive operation to discredit news organizations deemed hostile to President Trump by publicizing damaging information about journalists.
It is the latest step in a long-running effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to undercut the influence of legitimate news reporting. Four people familiar with the operation described how it works, asserting that it has compiled dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts and other public statements by hundreds of people who work at some of the country’s most prominent news organizations.
We will see what they’ve got, won’t we? If it’s #MeToo-level misbehavior, then maybe this operation will indeed derail some careers. But we’ve seen that quite a few prominent figures in the national media can bounce back from embarrassing revelations rather quickly and easily. Dan Rather is on Brian Stelter’s “Reliable Sources” all the time, and Brian Williams is still an anchor for MSNBC. In most of the media’s eyes, they’re “rehabilitated.” As noted last week, a wide swath of Democratic strategists seemed to simply forget about the accusations against Mark Halperin.
The New York Times Sarah Jeong had a long history of “jokes” about “white people” on her Twitter feed that sounded suspiciously indistinguishable from genuine racial animosity. She’s still on the Times’ editorial board.
It is rather convenient for major journalists to decide that now old tweets of bad jokes or controversial comments do not represent firing offenses.
ADDENDA: On the home page, a look at the career of Andrew Luck and how, as painful as this moment is for Indianapolis Colts fans, it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.