Sunday, June 11, 2017

On hope

What James Comey says Donald Trump said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Andrew Storm on bosses’ hopes:

In a 1995 case, KNTV, Inc., the company president had a private meeting with a reporter where the president told the reporter, “I hope you won’t continue to be an agitator or antagonize the people in the newsroom.” The [National Labor Relations Board] found that the statement was coercive in large part because it was made by the company’s highest ranking official and it was made in a meeting that the reporter was required to attend alone. Sound familiar?

In other words, the expert agency that regularly adjudicates disputes about whether particular statements by an employer rise to the level of coercion has held that when the president of an organization expresses his “hopes” in a private conversation with a worker, those comments will likely have a “chilling effect” on the employee.
As Mark Liberman observes, it’s common sense to recognize that Trump’s “I hope you can let this go” was meant to be heard as a directive.

My academic example: Imagine a chair or dean, after a meeting has ended, asking for a private word with a faculty member who suspects plagiarism in the work of some favored student: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Biff go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” There’s no question that in such a setting, “I hope” is a directive, one that you disregard at your own risk.

See also Anthony Lane on Trump and Comey and hope.

comments: 4

Diane Schirf said...

Especially if Biff's dad were a major donor.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, or if Biff was in some way an asset to the school, perhaps on an athletic field. A friend of mine was pressured in this way back in grad school and told the coaches to back off. Pretty brave.

Diane Schirf said...

This is starting to feel like an episode of Murder, She Wrote in which the professor, Biff, or Coach is found in a locker smothered with a pigskin.

Michael Leddy said...

Ha! I hope Jessica Fletcher doesn’t have a nephew named Biff — for his sake.