Yesterday, began with numerous top White House officials releasing public statements denying authorship of the NYT anonymous op-ed detailing the chaos and unfitness for office of President Trump. Each denial serves as a building block of The Wall of top administration officials, who will now work harder to defend and protect this president from his detractors and from impeachment, if that comes.
These people, whether fully conscious of the long-term ramifications of these public statements, now have placed their own credibility more firmly behind President Trump and against both the anonymous op-ed writer and the charges of gross unfitness for office laid out in this op-ed. These people have now openly entwined their personal integrity with President Trump’s. No one stepped forward and said any of the statements in the op-ed letter were true. Their statements of support for the president, actually worked to disavow the veracity of the op-ed accounting.
Several pundits and politicians urged the op-ed writer to go public and testify to Congress under oath, so that the charges can be investigated. That would be the honorable and brave thing to do, because it seems highly likely, in this political and rapidly spinning information environment, that the identity will be revealed sooner rather than later.
Honor is a rare and often lonely path to follow.
President Trump reminds me of a store manager I worked for. Before President Trump came on the scene, I thought this store manager was the most toxic leader I had ever seen. Along with being a thoroughly toxic manager of people, he was also the most talented merchandiser I had ever seen. Often I thought, “With just a tiny bit of integrity, he could be the best store manager in that retail chain.”
Likewise, with some integrity, President Trump could actually be a “great” president, but the way he operates – playing his team members against each other, lying constantly, manipulating everyone around him and his refusal to listen to anyone, all spell doom for his achieving “great” things. He, just like that store manager, is his own worst enemy.
I worked in a subordinate managerial position and felt this store manager wanted me gone from the moment he arrived as a store manager. The thing is, I, and many others in this store, knew this guy well, as he had worked in our store as a store co-manager a few years before, after he had been demoted from being a store manager at another store. We got to see his corrupt way of operating many, many times.
The incident that sticks in my mind is this guy, was working the overnight shift as the co-manager, and one morning I went into the back room to throw some trash away in the baler. He was standing there with his cellphone in hand, laughing and bragging that he had just sent pictures to the market manager of all the things that were screwed up in the store and the fault of the store manager. He was trying to get the store manager in trouble.
The store manager asked this co-manager to be the best man at his wedding and I assume that store manager believed this guy was his friend, because this co-manager always acted like he and the store manager were old friends.
Long story short, that store manager did get fired and I never forgot how this co-manager operated, so I was uneasy when I found out he was coming back to be our store manager. I knew he wanted me gone about a month after he became our store manager, when I was given my annual evaluation. In more than a decade at this store, most of it in supervisory positions, I had always received exceeds expectations evals.
This eval was a “needs improvement” and I was both dismayed and confused as the assistant manager read through my eval. I asked several questions about why I was getting such low ratings and on one metric, this assistant manager told me that I had failed to coach a department manager about the high number of out-of-stock items in her department. Never once in the previous year had this assistant manager or any other manager suggested that I should coach this long-time department manager, who was a prima donna in the store and who salaried managers allowed to do whatever she wanted. Even more bizarre was not long before my evaluation, I sat in, as this very assistant manager gave this department manager her glowing exceeds expectations annual evaluation and he apologized to her that he wasn’t able to give her the highest “role model” evaluation, because the store manager would not approve any of those. He assuredly did not mention her high number of out-of-stock items.
I mentioned that and this assistant manager just stuck to, “oh well” attitude. I used the open door policy and talked to a co-manager about my evaluation and told her I did not understand why I was being trashed in this evaluation, even though I knew that with a needs improvement eval, a few months down the road, I would be reevaluated and if deemed still below par, I would be terminated. This co-manager changed my evaluation to a meets expectations.
A few days later she pulled me aside and told me how the store manager flew into a rage about her changing my evaluation and she told me she believed he wanted her gone too. She resigned and left shortly thereafter, because in her words, she couldn’t deal with his “reign of terror.”
The thing about working for an extremely toxic leader is they don’t bully, harass and intimidate just one person. I was not the first, last or only person this store manager made a target to eliminate. He targeted associates and managers constantly and he manipulated or intimidated other managers to participate in his unethical behavior. He delighted in playing managers against each other.
Many times associates complained higher up and one time a department manager even called Human Resources higher than our market level. That human resource manager came with an asset protection manager to conduct interviews with associates privately and also some group sessions to discuss the work atmosphere in the store.
Nothing happened to that store manager and he continued as before, only worse, as he targeted people he believed were snitches. He surrounded himself with only managers who would do his bidding, unquestioned, and who would operate just like him. He corrupted everyone who stayed working close to him, because he spewed a constant stream of bs to rationalize the unethical conduct. Sadly, many of the managers quickly learned to act just like him.
I put in my two-week notice when he ordered me to write-up an elderly black associate for not getting enough work done. He made motions of hunching his shoulders and walking like an ape, telling me that is how she moves. He was red in the face with rage as he bellowed , “I want her coached TODAY!” I had gone in early that morning to work on a shelf reset and I was rushing to clean up, because the market manager was coming to visit our store that morning.
The rule was all the pallets in the back room had to be binned in and off the floor in the morning. A manager informed me there were several pallets of freight belonging to my departments that the overnight stockers hadn’t even worked.
A little while later, a woman who had been a co-manager in our store, but had been out on sick leave, came back and was in limbo working in our store, came to tell me that the store manager told her to get down several old overstock pallets of back-to-school merchandise from on top of the steel bins, for me to work that day. I looked at this woman, who did whatever the store manager told her to do, no questions asked, and told her that I already had several unworked pallets of new freight the overnight stockers hadn’t worked. I asked her why on earth he wanted old freight pulled down to clutter up the back room floor when the market manager was coming to visit our store soon. She shrugged her shoulders and told me that’s what the store manager wanted.
During the market manager’s visit, the store manager called me to the stationery department, so the market manager could berate me in front of the management team. I asked the market manager if I could speak to him privately and we walked a few yards away. I told him I had faxed a letter to him months earlier about problems with management in our store. He told me he hadn’t read it and the HR guy handles that.
That HR guy had been a store manager in our store 2 separate times over the many years I worked there. He signed off on all the exceeds expectations evals I received and even more than that, whenever new programs were implemented that involved department managers, this HR guy would hand the written guidance and packet of information to me, ask me to read it and he told the other department managers, “Sue, will figure it out and train everyone on how it works.” He did this several times. With my letter months before, he called me once and was dismissive of my complaints about the store manager.
He knew this store manager and knew he had been in store manager positions before and bumped down several times. Other associates told me they had contacted this HR guy too and complained about the store manager’s actions.
I put in my two-week notice and left. That elderly associate was a long-time associate, who trained me how to zone when I first started working in that store. She was a dedicated employee and a hard worker always. The failure to get enough work done had nothing to do with her work habits and everything to do with the chaotic management style of the store manager, who constantly changed his mind about what he wanted done, when he wanted it done and he was forever sending subordinate managers around the store yanking associates and department managers and sending them on some other tasks that he wanted done immediately, while the work in their own departments was interrupted.
I had been down this road with this store manager about a year before, when I was a zone manager over the Hardlines side of the store and we were doing a lawn and garden Spring set. He and his co-manager failed to supervise a new assistant manager, but let her run wild on taking charge of the Spring set. She did not know what she was doing, she refused to listen to me or the lawn and garden department manager and she created huge messes as the reset progressed – pallets of freight everywhere on the patio, chaos inside too. Each day, the co-manager bitched out me and the department manager about the escalating chaos, as if it was our fault.
That new assistant manager called me at home one evening and ordered me to come in to work overnight that night to work the new modular freight and she told me the department manager was coming in too. She had gotten associates to pull out over 20 pallets of new mod freight. As the night wore on, the department manager kept telling me there was no way we could work through all of these pallets, plus many of pallets had become overstock pallets of new mod freight that we worked and it didn’t fit on the shelves. Starting after the overnight lunch hour (2 am-3 am) I began asking this assistant manager what her plan was to clear these pallets off the floor in the morning, because pallets have to be off the sales floor by 7 am. She ignored me and ordered me to just stock. I asked her a couple more times as the hours went by, because two major problems worried me. There was nowhere in the back room for that many lawn and garden pallets and it would take a good while to pull that many pallets. She had no plan.
The co-manager responsible for lawn and garden arrived a bit before 7 am and she chewed out the department manager and me about the chaos and she berated the department manager and told her she didn’t want to hear it, because the department manager didn’t do anything about scheduling more associates to work. The truth was that the department manager and I were hourly employees. Salaried management was 100% responsible for scheduling. She was fuming at me and the department manager and she angrily told us that the store manager was going to have a fit when he saw the mess.
He did and he ordered me to write-up the department manager for failing to do her job and creating such a mess. I refused and stepped down as a zone manager on the spot, while he and that co-manager berated me for not holding the department manager accountable or helping the assistant manager. The truth was they both failed to do their jobs as salaried managers to train and supervise that assistant manager.
Throughout the days leading up to this, the department manager and I had tried to talk to this assistant manager, but she blew us off and ignored us completely. When you do major department resets, it’s a recipe for failure if you begin the reset with not even a floor plan drawn up and haven’t read the modular cover sheets and diagram pages assessing the fixtures and manpower you’ll need. I went back to being a department manager.
After the scene in the store manager’s office with that co-manager present, I went back to lawn and garden and spent several hours moving all of those pallets by myself. That assistant manager, who created the chaos, had gone home to start her vacation, before I was even called into the store manager’s office.
When it was deja vu all over again, a year later, I refused to throw that elderly associate under the bus and when I told her I had put in my two-week notice and why, she said, “Sue, I’m right behind you.” She put in her two-week notice too.
Back to our toxic leader-in-chief. He is that store manager writ large. Does President Trump have star power? Absolutely. Is he entertaining to watch? Depends on taste, but there’s something riveting about his sideshow antics, that make him the star of any stage. Could he be a “great” president, well, just like that store manager:
“With just a tiny bit of integrity, he could be the best store manager in that retail chain.”
Character really is destiny.
This anonymous op-ed pits one “senior administration official” against not only President Trump, but all those who have allowed themselves to be corrupted, by either turning a blind-eye to the president’s personal corruption or they’ve found ways “to manage” this president’s chaotic, amoral directives, by running this two-track presidency to prop him up. None of them are abiding by their oath to protect The Constitution, because there is no “two-track” decision-making power in The Constitution.
They cast their lot with President Trump long before this op-ed letter.
To work around a corrupt manipulator like President Trump requires constantly sacrificing chunks of your personal integrity, as you either turn a blind-eye to the corruption, work to keep your distance from the corruption or make flimsy rationalizations that you’re working to a higher-purpose trying to contain the corruption.
The truth is they are enabling the corruption to continue, unchecked.