Saturday, December 17, 2005

An unpleasant aspect of our community


I would like to see this comment from the post elevated to a top level post. It brings to light an unpleasant aspect of our community that I have also noticed, and of which I am also ashamed.

Paradoxically, I am making this request anonymously, because I live in this community and I have to work here as well. I suppose that makes me a coward also.


You can portray LANL staff as "the poor downtrodden" if you wish, but the reality is that the majority of staff were (and still are) cowards in the face of abusive management. With but a few exceptions, LANL staff were afraid to speak out against former director Nanos and his cadre of yes-persons.

Up until just recently, staff were still claiming that they required anonymous posting rights on this blog for fear of suffering reprisals from management. The reality is that the majority of people who work at LANL are cowards, and deserve exactly what they got from past and current LANL management, and from whatever the new contractor chooses to dish out.

There have only been a notable few who were not afraid to face up to management at LANL and the University of California; we all know who they are because they used their own names when expressing outrage at the inept and abusive treatment that is the hallmark of LANL and UC managers.

I am proud of those few who had the morals and ethics to take a stance regarding the unbelievable acts of incompetence and abuse that occurred at Los Alamos this past year. I am ashamed of the rest of you.

In the decades I worked there I saw a number of excellent people go into management. One of three fates always befall them. Either they learned to fit in which, unfortunately, didn't improvement the management, or the got bitter but stayed in management or they got bitter and got out of management. Sad really. None of them improved LANL management. Most just burned out. To much inertia, I guess, for anyone to make a positive difference.
So who is this Roderick Spade who speaks so strongly of us cowards at LANL but whose name does not show up on the LANL roster?

Please tell us where you work and how often you have spoke up in an environment where abusive, dishonest people like Admiral Butthead are put in a leadership position.

Why should employees have to put their employment at risk to challenge management? Los Alamos is not Chicago where there are two DOE labs, universities, and many private employers to turn to if one is fired. In Los Alamos, you either work for LANL or run a business. Getting fired from LANL is much more severe than in the case of most other DOE laboratories.
It may be prudent for many LANL employees to discontinue whining about management and start considering how it will be when corporate business practices are implemented. We all live in the USA, which is run by two things. Corporations and military endeavors. Maybe some of you should go try working at the local McDonalds and see how far complaining to management gets you. Then go join the military and go to Iraq and complain to management about too much security or something.
I have a different take on the situation.

I am a scientist, a biochemist, and have been studying the social
dynamics of Los Alamos for a while.
I am also a business man and have been studying the expected futures for the lab.

Some of these futures are bleak. They however are not the most likely futures.

The most likely futures, no matter who wins the contract, seem decent to good.

A key factor in helping the decent to good futures become the actual future seems to be less the name of the new contractor and more the professionalism and committment of the workforce.

We do not have to be more courageous. We just have to do our jobs, whether as employees, contractors, or others, really well.

My prediction has changed markedly over the last few months and become much more positive. The details of the prediction are long. If you would like to know more, contact me.

I certainly did see numerous examples of cowardly behavior while maintaining this blog over the past year, primarily conducted through the use of anonymous comments. That is why I eventually disallowed their use here. Whether it was simply a "small group of highly vocal malcontents", to use Kevin Roark's famous words, or a valid cross-sectional sample of the lab populace we have no way of knowing. I did, however, find myself somewhat disappointed in claims that were repeatedly made after our former director departed that "anonymity was still required as protection from abusive managers".

Bullshit. I'm living proof that this simply is not true. If anybody was to have been retaliated against for blogging-related issues, it would have been me. And I was not retaliated against during the six months that I ran this blog while still employed at LANL.
I think Brad's being accused of "perjury" by the former Director at a meeting with mandatory full attendance might be considered retaliation. It certainly invited Brad's more immediate management to take adverse action against him. For the rest, I can't judge.
You have a point, dug. However, I consider the former director's statement regarding Brad's paper and "perjury" to be more an act of stupidity than retaliation.

I am unaware of what Brad's immediate management took against him as a result of the false claim. Perhaps Brad could inform us.

It is much easier to exhibit courage when you have an escape plan, such as an ability to retire within a few months.
Twelve people in my group alone engineered their own escape plans. There were only two of us of sufficient age and years of service to consider retirement as a partial option. I say "partial" option, because neither of us could have lived off of our retirement income, given that we were retiring at least six years before planned.

And it was not an easy decision to make for any of us.

Yes, darhtman, I agree. It's very interesting that someone who
labels others with the title of "coward" is using a name that has
no profile on Blogspot and shows up no where on the LANL roster.

But, I DID find one very interesting tidbit. It's highly probable
that both Finknottle and Roderick Spode are one and the same
character. Both of these strange names come from a UK sit-com called
"Jeeves & Wooster". You can see for yourselves. Go to Google
and type in: "Roderick Spode" "Finknottle". What are the odds?

You can also find a few posts on this blog where a post by Spode
is immediately commented on by Finknottle. The writing styles
of both Finknottle and Spode are also very similar.

I've enjoyed some of Finknottle's witty posts. He's clearly pro-LM,
and seems to have some special insights into the workings of upper
management of LANL. He's also the fellow who probably posted the
bio for George Nanos over at Wikipedia.

Finknottle, if I'm wrong about your dual identity, then please
forgive me. If I'm right, then knock it off, and stop giving
in to your "dark side". With the contract about to be announced,
the whole LANL staff is wound tighter than a golf ball right now.
Funny how people read their own complaints into posts- this is so far afield. I called LANL downtrodden because the Contract RFP- LLC Competition- LLC Contract Winner Announcement- Actual Contract Process is being draggged ouuut sooo looong. I wasn't complaining about management at all. TM
I am afraid that Gussie Fink-Nottle would not get worked up much one way or the other about a largely acquiescent, silent majority. His whole world centered around newts, and at times, Madeline Bassett. Spode might, but then Spode was really a bit of a dim bulb. Wodehouse painted Sir Roderik Spode, 8th Earl of Sidcup as a secret admirer of Nazi militaristic rule and strict order. Spode often threatened to beat Gussie Fink-Nottle "to a jelly". See for more specifics on the Spode character. I doubt that "Gussie Fink-Nottle" and "Sir Roderick Spode" are one and the same contributor to the blog. If they are, though, we have one seriously schizophrenic poster in our midst.

Speaking of the pending contract, I believe I disagree with your assessment that "staff is wound tighter than a golf ball." In my part of the lab, apathy has set in, seriously. Most of the people that I work with are sick to death of rumors, more rumors, and continuous delays in the announcement date. Those I talk to are of the opinion that it almost doesn't matter who wins the contract, because it just can't get much worse here than it already is. There are still any number of staff who, as Brad Holian pointed out a while back "want UC to win because they want their benefits preserved". Do not underestimate the obliviousness of a large chunk of the staff at LANL.
Me, Spode? (not "Spade", as dhartman suggests).


Now, leave me alone, I wish to play with my newt.

Just as a slight break from the Wodehouse levity, I am delighted to inform everyone that my immediate supervisor (Group Leader) over a year ago was the person to whom I turned to as Authorized Derivative Classifier, as well as for friendly advice with regard to the opinion piece in Physics Today (December 2004). I heard absolutely nothing from anyone higher in the chain of command, at least nothing bad that was said to my face. I heard rumors of displeasure that seemed to increase with rank (no pun on 'rank' intended), but there was that little business of the 'disappeared' issues of Physics Today. I suspect a mole in the Lab Mail Room doing the supposed bidding of his/her superiors, but I never heard the results of the 'investigation' into that affair (to have been conducted by Public Affairs, am I right?--it WAS so-o-o-o lo-o-o-o-ong ago).

It seems, in my 33 years of experience at LANL, that management has to take seriously any reports of trouble that are well documented and soberly written up, as well as 'networked.' By that I mean, a group of reliable colleagues need to vet the story, correct misconceptions or errors, and have to stand behind the spokesperson's story, if even anonymously. Wild-eyed stuff is the easiest thing for management to dismiss. If the case is airtight, then attacks from Above look downright foolish. And if it's a political vendetta or a witchhunt, then eventually the truth will come out to disgrace the perpetrator, whether a pseudo-whistleblower or a runamok manager.


Actually, the LANL staff seems to currently fall into one of 4 classes:


* Apathetic and "burned-out" (The majority class)

* Full of anxiety and fear (Second biggest class)

* Very angry (Small class, but watch-out for these guys!)

* Optimistic, and hopeful (Smallest class; usu. younger staff)


Of course, any one individual is probably a Gaussian mixture of
these four classes.

Here's hoping that we finally discover the winner this week, and
can begin to put this mess behind us. I'm tired of waiting.
In reference to Dahrtman saying "In Los Alamos, you either work for LANL or run a business" I know a few that do both. Let me see, now no one thinks that they are spending LANL time minding there restaurants during the day do they? Oh sorry, I forgot about the perk of discretionary absences.
Interesting good2go. Any further observations about the employees in each of your categories?

Younger vs older; TSM, TEC, SSM, GS; by Division; how supported - LDRD, G&A/OH, weapons, WFO; ... ?
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