obstruction of justice

The James Comey Guide for Bullied Employees and Whistleblowers

As an expert in workplace dynamics, I was struck by how today’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing with former FBI Director James Comey was really an issue aboutworkplace wrongdoing and a bully boss. While a few of the senators asked pointed questions about the Russian investigation and, perhaps in the effort of obfuscation, Hillary Clinton, the questions centered on why Comey was fired.  Comey’s answers really made me sit up and take notice—they were a master class in what to do when dealing with a bully or the need to become a whistleblower.

1. Trust Your Instincts

When Donald Trump sent the attorney general and the vice president out of the Oval Office in order to talk privately to Comey, red flags popped up in Comey’s head. Additional concerns were raised when Trump changed the reason he had fired the FBI director. This is where the skills of emotional intelligence are vital—understanding the mood and tenor of a situation will let you know when to be on your guard.

2. Keep a Paper Trail

Given the red flags and his solo meeting with Trump, Comey felt compelled to keep a detailed account of every interaction they had. This was unnecessary under presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who only spoke to Comey on rare occasions and never improperly. Because he kept a paper trail, investigators can now use the documents to get to the truth.

3. Try Not to Be Alone with the Bully Boss

It‘s important to have witnesses when malfeasance happens. Comey knew that Trump’s request to have a meeting alone was highly improper and went to great lengths to keep it from happening again. This is also why he celebrated the idea that there might be tapes.

4. Go to Independent Investigators Outside Your Company

Comey gave the detailed memos he wrote to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller III for his investigation for a good reason. According to the New York Times: “I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night, ‘cause it didn’t dawn on me originally that there might be corroboration for our conversation; there might be a tape,” Mr. Comey said, referring to May 15. “And my judgment was I needed to get that out in the public square so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. So I asked a close friend of mine to do it.”

For more information about dealing with bully bosses and protecting yourself if you need to become a whistleblower, please read my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire.

Photo credit: CNN