Tillerson and Trump

Quartz has explored a question that rattles around in my mind: why would an executive like Rex Tillerson want to work for an undisciplined braggart like Trump? Tillerson has been light years more successful in his field than Trump in his, and Tillerson’s style couldn’t be more at odds with his new boss.

“Tillerson would have reached Exxon’s mandatory retirement age of 65 this March. A cabinet appointment would allow him to stay deep in the game. But even to the ego-driven—which the typical oilman certainly is—the advantages of jumping personally into a very messy fray have not seemed obvious. One wonders how long Tillerson will be contented working for the notoriously unruly, unread, and uncouth president-elect.

Of course, Tillerson’s unexpected recruitment into politics could not be more propitious for Exxon itself. At once, the company’s view of the US and the world will be physically represented at the highest levels of political power. How that translates into corporate advantage will unfold quickly should Tillerson be confirmed by the Senate.”


Ego and ambition are powerful drivers. But so is reputation, for a person like Tillerson. Anyone near Trump risks losing every shred of personal and professional integrity. That risk is apparently what led James Woolsey, former CIA director, to quit the Trump transition team.

Tillerson also might be motivated by the chance to undo sanctions against Russia that have harmed Exxon’s bottom line. Who knows. But on a day-to-day basis, working for a boss like Trump is going to be a constant battle to impose disciple and order on an intentionally chaotic administration, all the while trying to steer clear of Trump’s petty vendettas. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me.

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