Monday, February 21, 2005

Comments on Previous Posts

From Anonymous:

In the interests of clarity, I would like to comment on a couple of posts to this blog.

In the case of Steve Younger and DTRA: Younger remained a LANL employee while at DTRA, the same as any of us who go on change-of-station or are assigned to another Federal agency to DC. Thus, it was not Nanos' role to rehire Younger. But it was the Director's decision on how to bring him back and at what salary - nothing is guaranteed when you return (something that many LANL folks have learned the hard way). Making him a Senior Fellow is the decision of the Director, but it could easily have been John Browne who agreed to it before Younger went to DTRA. Younger certainly would have known that one needs things in writing before leaving.

The statement that all division leaders serve at the pleasure of the Director is true, but not new with Nanos. His ill-conceived contempt of them (like the remainder of the staff) is the novelty. Serving at the pleasure of the Director goes back to Oppenheimer. Hecker used the policy liberally - remember the Lab reorg in '94? But Nanos' authority only extends to removing them from their management position - he cannot terminate them since this is governed by the UC employment rules. But you can certainly argue that neither HR nor UC will stand up to Nanos, but he must at least go through the process.

And he has certainly threatened them recently that they had to back him or else. But this is also not new; Jim Jackson and Joe Salgado both did this routinely, even on occasion threatening physical violence and using language that Nanos might find amusing. Nanos is just less astute - or is it that he wasn't 'one of us' before becoming Director?

This comment is not quite correct. UC issued a new policy for positions determined by the directors of their three labs in early January. This new policy calls for "at will" of the employee not just the managerial title. The policy says that any "at will" can be terminated with 60 days sevrence pay -- although efforts can be made to find the employee another position in the lab, there is no obligation. In effect, a manager gives up TSM status when they become a division leader (in the UC system this is like giving up tenure to take the position of Dean -- which is unthinkable). This policy was pushed from Los Alamos -- it was one of Nanos' priorities when he first came on because he believed that when leaders were terminated they often hung around with bad attitude. That is probably true! Although this change in policy may sound subtle, it is scary to managers because it is soley at the discretion of the Director -- and the Director has a 2.5 year documented history of disregard for rationale though.

Examples: Tom Meyer was teminated because the Director did not think he fit on the team (probably a valid point), so he was terminated. All within the Director's rights. What is disconcerting is that Nanos never meet with Meyer in the six months between his removal as ADSR and his ultimate resignation. Never - what kind of leader is that?

Al Sattleberger was terminated because of the C Divsion laser accident. One could argue that responsiblity resides with the DL, but this is not a simple case. Sattleberger was leading a new safety approach, but an employee did not follow the rules.
Worth removal as DL? In subsequent discussions, Sattleberger was promised some things at LANL, but the director backtracks because he has personal dislike for the former head of C division. Lab Leadership?

Promotion of Micheline Devaurs to ADSR was stunning. Although Devaurs is a fine person, there is nothing in her background that says "scientist", nor any leadership skills for science. But, she had the confidence of the director because she did what ever he aksed, and made no waves, and kept science down. Devaurs routinely goes through the motions of an AD -- goes to meetings, etc., but is amazingly clueless. This is not her fault - it is like asking Sig Hecker to run an aircraft carrier.
LANL managers can be fired at will, but that doesn't mean their firings will stand up in court. There are laws governing what constitutes an "at will" employee. Just declaring a group of employees "at will" doesn't necessarily make it so. At least one former manager is testing this in court.
Unfortunately, managers are no longer allowed to join unions -- thanks to the Taft-Hartly Act, though middle managers are often treated worse than ordinary employees.
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