Saturday, September 24, 2005

It is the cronyism that grows from living in a company town

A comment from the



The problem at LANL is not a Morman conspiracy. It is the cronyism that grows from living in a company town. People just spend too much time together outside of work. They go to church together, to soccer games together, etc. They see each other in the grocery store. And, with only one employer in town, there are the matters of spousal employment and summer jobs for the kids.

Those who do not live in Los Alamos are left out of a seat at the promotion table. After all, it is a lot easier to pass over an applicant that you do not see every Sunday in church.

Some of this led to the sinking of IBM. The IBMers only socialized with IBMers. They had their own sports leagues, card clubs, etc. They ended up with a very distorted picture of the outside (aka, non-IBM) world. It resulted in a lot of not very smart people moving up the org chart.

This really hits the nail right on the head. In our organization, we call it the White Rock Social Club.
Interesting. For the past 15 years my group has (mostly) worked well together. But we don't socialize together except for the occasional pair-wise get togethers that happen to do bike rides or skiing or such.

We largely like, or at least respect each other, but I could not imagine socializing with that bunch. The mind-set leads to cronyism is foreign to me, but it could easily explain what, up until now, has seemed to be the good-old boy network at work (religious, political, whatever). Having lived in Salt Lake City for a brief period, however, I can certainly vouch for the fact that religious cronyism is alive and well there. "Gentiles" don't stand much of a chance of breaking into that clique at the work place.

The small-town cronyism that has been a fact of life at Los Alamos for years is just plain unhealthy. Given that we are a one-company town, though, probably does not allow any easy solutions to the problem.
This (cronyism, nepotism) is very common among the members of the support groups. No offense intended. Just try asking HR to do something about it. After UC loses the contract, I would like to write an expose about these situations at LANL.
I can tell you first hand that in the early 1980s the "Mormon Mafia" was entrenched at LANL, thanks to Jim Jackson. Hell, even the school superintendent was a Mormon.
...and a former police chief, now judge.
And county council chairman.
Then there's the "hot tub club"...
The cronyism is just as rampant with Lab employees from the communities surrounding Los Alamos.
IBM sank? My son-in-law is still receiving an IBM paycheck! What are you talking about?
I don't mind a bit of mindless hysteria as it keeps the crazies otherwise occupied, but for those that care, Paul Goodfellow was the school's business manager, not the superintendent. And Greg Talley was indeed the police chief, but never a judge- upon retirement he moved to PA to teach. Lawry Mann was a council chairman, as well as on the utilities board for a number of years. I suppose that with 300-400 members of the LDS church living in the community, one might expect a few of them to be successful. Sorry about that.
So how do we go forward with less nepotism? How do you draw the line between hiring a student from a trusted peer's university research group and feeling like you need to help out a coworker by hiring their kid for the summer? How do you tell a really great potential tech from outside the area that you can't even think about hiring them because they are not local?

If we could all just try to be a little more adult and professional then we might find that the work life at the lab would begin to resemble a kindergarten a little bit less. Maybe if we all risked doing the right thing more often then things might start to turn in the right direction.
I'm afraid that before LANL can go forward, there is a lot of dead wood that needs to be pruned. The LANL system of management has been broken for so long that the whole system has become inbred. The (sometimes) poisonous flow of invective regarding LANL, cronyism, nepotism, religious favoritism, etc. that we have been seeing on the blog is indicative that the entire LANL system in dire need of overhaul.

There are individual managers, program offices, whole divisions that need to be rethought, or at least largely restaffed. It is my sincere hope that Lockheed Martin wins the contract, because it is with them that there is any hope whatsoever for positive change at Los Alamos.
To Anonymous : 9/24/2005 05:38:33 PM, IBM is far from the leader in the PC business that it was 20 years ago. Plants have been closed and employees have been RIFed. Sounds like you are in denial.
IBM was in the doldrums and getting their rear kicked by MS before Lou Gerstner was brought in from the outside to clean up the operation. Several books were written about the problems - Big Blues being one of them. Gerstner's recent book reports what he did to turn them around. So a good manager can make the difference even in a big organization. Good luck to LANL.
I think the real point is that 'favoritism', 'cronyism' or nepotism is hard to resist at work. We tend to associate with people with whom we feel comfortable. We tend to hire people from research groups that we trust until we see evidence that the well has run dry. This happened in my group. The first five hires were great but the sixth was an unmitigated disaster.

This type of thing also appears to happen with secretarial and technician series jobs but in reverse. The anecdotes in our division run consistently towards that if you are not from Santa Fe or the Espanola valley then DO NOT apply to be a tech or secretary because you do not have the correct friends in the right places. That is just the way that things have evolved.

Any one who says that we do not have a problem with this at the lab rally means that THEY do not have a problem with letting things stay the way that they are.

Improving the situation will require that team, group and division leaders really start doing staff development, walking the halls and work areas and knowing what their staff is doing.

How does my group leader really expect to review my work when they are responsible for around 130-140 employees? They require the team leaders to do a lot of it. But team leaders really aren't management at LANL. But I have been told that they are considered management at SNL. Will that be a better thing? I don't know.
I am baffled. Why would our country's brightest minds, entrusted with the national security of the United States, feel compelled to indulge themselves in the adolescent practice of name calling on an internet blog- the most public of forums? And to do it, no less, under the cowardly moniker of "anonymous". I am disgusted by your gleeful gossiping and pettiness.

P.S. When you put someone's name on the internet, it becomes searchable. Imagine how you would feel if one of your grandchildren were to google YOUR name and they found a blog like this where your colleagues (anonymously, of course) accused you of fornicating with sheep. Classy folks - really classy.

- The "slut's" niece: Ellie
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