Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Bosses that don't listen (and climate change)

In my whole life I've had only two bosses that wouldn't listen to reasoned advice from subordinates. Both were hell on earth. But both were eventually fired.

One, in the military, was not only wrong, but irresponsible and unlikable. He decided that the way he'd get his technicians to respect him was to put us on parade before every shift.

Understand that these were intelligent airmen and women, highly qualified engineers, including senior non-commissioned officers with decades of experience. Our job was to repair and maintain million-dollar airplanes. Usually, we were left alone in our own supervisory system so we could concentrate on the airplanes, so as to not make dangerous mistakes. Some of us hadn't been on parade for decades. No matter -- we needed to "respect my authorité", as Cartman says in South Park. We were servicemen and women and could not go on strike, but we could do the maintenance by the book. Operations slowed to a crawl, as every "techy" pulled out the manual to study the proper way to do things at every occasion

This particular guy was eventually "promoted sideways" by the powers that be, removed to a position where he could do no further harm. He eventually resigned from the air force, a failure.

The second was an academic boss who was probably bi-polar and switched between being charming and affable, to yelling at people for no discernible reason, on no discernible schedule. A bad mood could last for a few minutes or weeks. On a bad day he could make five bad, irrevocable decisions, and even terminate one or more people, before he even finished his first breakfast can of "Red Bull". The caffeine in this, his favorite tipple, didn't help. (The back seat of his car was littered with empties.) The chaos he caused was intense. People feared for their jobs. Sensible people within his arc of power quit as soon as they figured out what was happening and could find another position. In the end, his bosses let him know they were considering not renewing his contract, and he was quickly gone, resigning before he could be fired.

I learned from these two morons, though: How to pick my battles, how to speak up when I had to, how to resist when need be, how to speak truth to power, how to cultivate a back-up plan for my life so I had workable alternatives, especially so I work and could continue to care for the people I was responsible for if I were ever fired. Most importantly I learned how to deal with the feelings of helplessness, anger and rage, keep my cool, and remain content in my own life as far as conditions would allow.

I have a mind to write to both of them and thank them for giving me the training I needed to weather the current presidential administration.

The thing that makes me most upset is the lost ground on climate change. I particularly don't understand how anyone with children is willing to risk dangerously destabilizing climate change, with all the social and political horror that will bring. It's possible that we climate scientists and policy wonks have done a poor job of communicating the difficulties to be expected from predicted change or the possibility of runaway climate change, but I doubt it. I think our leaders are either just too stupid or corrupt to understand. My own particular  idea, that these people comprise a new and dangerous class of fossil elites, is one hypothetical explanation. They're so rich, they won't suffer, and neither will their kids.

At least, that's what they tell themselves.

In all this, I'm very glad that there are many other people that have learned how to stand up for what they believe too. Sally Yates is a fine example.

Thank you too, to the hundreds of career US State Department employees that have signed this memo:

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