Sunday, April 17, 2005

The total impropriety of "serial abuse" in the workplace

From Anonymous:

Hi Doug:

I saw this one posted this morning and I thought it was extremely well written and made an excellent point. I would like to nominate it for a main post on the blog. It was a comment posted under "Nanos Legacy."


I am watching a rerun of the Bolton confirmation hearing last Tuesday. Carl Ford, former Director of State's INR intelligence office was the witness. Senator after senator (especially on the Democratic side) spoke eloquently about the total impropriety of "serial abuse" in the workplace. The incident they were talking about was Secretary Bolton's alleged berating of a junior intelligence analyst. The hearing was focused on this incident. Senator Boxer remarked that such behavior was illegal. Senator Biden said Bolton's actions were totally inappropiate and constitued grounds for voting against his confirmation. Even Senator Lugar held this behavior and demeanor to be inexcusable.

The issue at hand dealt with an INR analyst's non-concurrence with one of Bolton's talks before it was circulated to appropriate members of the intelligence community for comment. Bolton thought the analyst's action was inappropriate and told him so in a rather heated exchange. He did not use profanity or demeaning terms or none were alleged in the testimony.

Now return to Los Alamos, where our director berated everyone here by called us "buttheads and cowboys;" he fired an employee in front of startled customers at Starbucks; he ran down the aisle and chastised a technician who had asked a simple question during one all-hands meeting; he "chewed out" employees in the badge office because he himself had allow his training to lapse; he berated several of his ADs in front of their subordinates and visitors; and he destroyed the careers of innocent employees who he scapegoated to protect his agendas and his friends.

Am I missing something here? In the Bolton case a single incident in which loud berating may have happened might disqualify him as Ambassador to the United Nations. Here we have a "serial abuser" who holds major responsibilities for the nation's enduring nuclear arsenal and no one seems to care, not the DOE, not the NNSA, not the Congress, and sadly not the University of California.

This is really an important point. The underlying psychological problems that such serial abusers posses is critical. Nanos is on the PSAP program but how he passes his psychological evals is beyond me. This guy (Nanos) is really sick. The post only skips over the surface of the actual problem. There are scores of eyewitness accounts of his abuse of employees in front of many people. This lack of self control alone is worrisome. But he has on numerous occaisions violated safety and security rules in the middle of his tirades. He routinely uses profanity while berating subordinates and has even been heard to say about a LANL worker that "I want that Son-of-a-B#$#@ dead now!!" Luckily he does not have the power to have such orders carried out, but the fact that he acts this way in public should place everyone on guard. Placing George P. Nanos in charge of a nuclear weapons laboratory is one of the biggest foul-ups I can recall in this nations recent history.
There have been many such episodes mentioned in the blog and in the hallways. It would be instructive maybe for Senator Boxers' benefit to list in one place all these abusive situations. Try to minimize elaboration or as Sergeant Friday might have said, "Just the facts."
Could somebody expand upon the alleged firing of a LANL employee at Starbucks? I hadn't heard about this one yet.
This answer to your question was previously posted:
I believe the .....poster must be referring to the very public dismissal of AD Operations Jim Holt that supposedly occurred at Starbucks.
# posted by Anonymous : 4/16/2005 08:41:24 PM
Nanos is worrisome all right, but from what I read in the business press, he isn't much different from managers in the private sector. Have you been following the stories of Enron and World Com and Tyco? And for that matter Welch of GE was not known for his loving ways and Steven Jobs's behavior is totally rude, according to those who have worked for him, and Bill Gates and his immediate subordinates are said to be screamers.
The problem is that what passes for management in the US these days is a lot of arrogance and temper tantrums. Some of us came to UC to get away from that. But there is no where to hide, it seems.
Like chicken man, bad management, is everywhere.
Nanos is not a corporate official. He is an officer of the State of California and is subject to a different standard. Officials of the state and federal governments should be public servants not public tyrants. Tyrannical behavior is verboten in democracies.

Moreover, Nanos is not acting like any corporate official I ever met or read about. Read Jack Welch's book on management. He rewarded GE workers who questioned corporate processes to make them better. He detested layered processes that served no function other that provide SYA sanctuaries. He believed that top down management is a recipe for failure. He had a very low tolerance for sycophants and can anyone seriously think that Welch would have stood down General Electric for over six months.

Successful executives hire the best people they can afford and who are will to work for their corporations. They resource, empower, and enable those star people to maximize their contributions to the enterprise. Only fools would punish their best and most productive people and waste corporate resources by shackling them with meaningless trivia.
Although I'm totally opposed to condoning
any type of abuse, I am more concerned about those individuals in managment who will still be on board after Nanos and who have passed through his management program than I am about Nanos. These folks are found in many divisions at LANL, preaching the gospel according to GPN. "Don't get in my way or you'll be sorry". "I know everything I need to know so don't try to change my mind". "You aren't worth anything to this organization if you contradict me." And so on.

We can't put a list of names or positions on the blog, but we all have encountered a person or persons with the above character flaws. How do we ensure that the new contractor deals with these folks? And in the next several months how do we ensure that these folks are kept in check rather than continuing to "abuse" those with whom they work? In many cases these folks are so entrenched and so highly thought of by their immediate management that reporting problems up the line accomplishes nothing except possible retalitation.
Actually, 10:05:49, we can put a list of names and positions on this blog that the replacement director should replace soonest. I'll start:

Don Cobb
Rich Marquez
Micheline Devaurs
Jim Fallin
I will add Tom Bowles to the list.
I have to reluctantly agree with the Tom Bowles addition. He seems like a nice guy, but is totally ineffective in his CSO position.
Tom Bowles might be an ineffective CSO if one agrees that LANL needs a CSO, but is he of the same ilk as Nanos? It's important to separate the ineffective from the abusive. And naming the LANL abusers can be very dangerous because of the implied support by GPN.
The issue of whether we need a CSO or not at LANL aside, Bowles has demonstrated his willingness to be Nanos' mouthpiece, and that alone disqualifies him as far as I am concerned.
If I were coming in from the outside and arrived to find such a total and complete catastrophe I would take everyone from Div. Ldr. up and fire them instantly. There is nothing here worth salvaging above the group level.
Unfortunately, there are more than a few group leaders that really are not qualified. There are some good ones, too. It will be a real management challange to sort out who is who.
Can anyone comment on the accuracy of a story about how Nanos stormed down to a LANL employee's office and berated the employee while Nanos was still a DAD working for Cobb? In the story that I heard, the employee was his neighbor, with whom he was actively engaged in a legal dispute, at the time. If true, seems like an abuse of power to me.
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