May 8, 2008

Worry about the quiet lab employees

[A letter to the editor originally published in the Los Alamos Monitor.]

Dear Editor,
I’m normally a pretty outspoken person, but even I have been squashed into silence at LANS. We’re all living in a town full of fear – again. We fear for our jobs, our families, and our way of life. We already know we won’t survive the next inevitable LANS budget crisis unscathed.

I wonder who it is bothering to look seriously at the human toll this will bring? Or is humanity just a problem for the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to deal with?

Being an outspoken person, I’ve been labeled a “problem child” (especially when I’ve questioned authority). But it’s not the outspoken people we need to worry about. I’m going to be angry if I wind up at the top of someone’s involuntary RIF list. But I also know I’ll survive it somehow.

Has our society learned nothing from events like the Virginia Tech. massacre? It’s the quiet, angry people we need to worry about, folks! These are the brooders who fester over their impotence to be able to take control of their own lives – to be able to have a voice. Who is bothering to give them any serious consideration?

I think many of us have experienced being bullied in our jobs by a “big person” or two. These are the arrogant, but insecure little people who have a need to make us feel small and unimportant. By putting us in our places, they’re satisfied feeling bigger, better and stronger. And some of these people also hold the power of our futures in their hands.

Who, of the thousands of LANS employees, are going to fret, feste and suffer in silence until they find whether or not they’re on someone’s involuntary RIF list? How many crises do we have to endure in Los Alamos before one of us has had enough? How long do we have before someone blows?

I guarantee it won’t be those of us who are outspoken (even if we’re quashed at work). It’s going to be someone who doesn’t make him- or herself heard or noticed. That’s not just an EAP problem. It’s everyone’s problem.

They live amongst us, folks.

Barbara Nelson
Los Alamos

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is the letter that our management has dreaded! This is their 'Security nightmare". No one in the upper management ranks will sleep in peace tonight.

Anonymous said...

Good. Maybe some sleepless nights might make one or two of them realize how their employess feel.

What the writer expressed is very true. The silent ones break in a much worse way than the outspoken ones.

Anonymous said...

Who besides me has been harrassed with Fitness-for-Duty detail.

Eric said...

The stress on the town and people's reaction to the stress was predicted, accurately, by our former police chief and Cerro Grande fire hero, Rich Melton, before he left town.

He predicted, from experience, how the quiet ones will take their frustration out on their families and themselves in private.

I hope that he is wrong or that the rest of us will watch out for each other. A number of churches have been on the look out for the 'quiet ones' for a couple of years now.

There is a respectably large confidential, completely private, support network for those who need it and are willing to talk to at least one person in the network.

Prayers for all who need them. There is a way out.

Anonymous said...

Naah, Mike and company aren't worried - their big bonuses are taking care of any of that. Kind of like comfort food.

Anonymous said...

lol. What a load of self-serving nonsense. Someone has a guilty conscience.

Sort of like saying that you shouldn't worry about the aggressive drivers, because it's the ones that obey all the traffic laws that are doing the really bad stuff.

Anonymous said...

Just think of all the people at LANL who have been mistreated over the past 5 years by Terry, Susan, Alan, Scott, Mary, and Doug before their astronomical rise to top power. People remember the abuse and tend to be very quiet ...

Anonymous said...

I know Barbara. She's a stand-up person who knows what she's talking about. The barriers of the security badge swipe and hand geometry to get through the security perimeter turnstile won't stop a cleared person with a mental problem and an UZI. Her statement that "It’s going to be someone who doesn’t make him- or herself heard or noticed." should scare the shit out of everyone who works in a "secure" area at the Lab. No protection. If you've ever pissed off one of your co-workers, you better start staying home.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to be effective at work with all the stress that NNSA and LANS have generated at LANL. I hope people cope well but I won't be surprised if I hear stories of employees who snap when/if the involuntary RIFs finally hit LANL. Being laid off in a small factory town like Los Alamos will mean bankruptcy and extreme dislocation for some unlucky families.

LLNL is already preparing for their dreaded date with the pink slips. People who receive them have been told they will be immediately escorted out of their office to spend their last few weeks at LLNL sitting in special "Transition Centers" located outside the fence and away from their former co-workers.

LANL feels like a sad, empty shell of its former self. Was the LLC and all the financial expense that it entailed really worth that much to you, NNSA? Even Domenici has started to sense that the science is dieing off at LANL and has said as much to the media. Do you realize what is happening to your labs, NNSA? Do you even care?

Anonymous said...

" If you've ever pissed off one of your co-workers, you better start staying home.

5/8/08 10:12 PM"

Damm, what if you pissed off most of your co-workers?

Anonymous said...

from llnl: Most will be escorted out and receive pay in lieu of notice. If there is not sufficient time to pack all personal items (many employees have accumulated quite a lot over the years), their possessions will be packed for them and shipped to them later. Some 200 series employees with more than 10 years service will be required to remain on the payroll (they will not recieve pay in lieu of notice) for up to 120 days, and either work from the transition/resource center or telecommute from home for the period. Their primary function during the 120 days will be to job search. The transition/resource center will also be available for other laid off employees to prepare resume's and perform job serarches.

Anonymous said...

LLNL morale is really low right now. Many people are taking off RIF week (May 19-23) one way or another.

If someone does go postal, most of the building will be empty, at least in my area.

Doug Roberts said...

Somebody should start a blog about this.

;-}

--Doug

Anonymous said...

The references to VT should be considered a threat by LANL security. For the safety of the employees, I hope Barbara Nelson is escorted off property immediately. And permanently.

Now is a good time to remind people that LANL health insurance does cover psychiatric treatment.

Anonymous said...

I agree a blog, or at least a forum for the "Stressed' employee's to vent would be a hlep. The pressure cooker at LAN'S has gone too long with-out addressing this most significant issue. It time to address this issue before it's too late.

Anonymous said...

To 9:02, are you for real? You sir are a complete "nut" job.

Anonymous said...

LANL's demise is at hand, the only remaining issue is how many employee's will be Rifed within the next few years. 20-30% I can't belive anyone will be able to cope with the stress levels' that are coming. Management needs to address the work-place stress created by the downsizing.

Anonymous said...

To 1:05,
Check out 10:09. They are coming out of the woodwork.

Anonymous said...

"Management needs to address the work-place stress created by the downsizing." 5/9/08 1:15 PM

Management doesn't give a damn and neither does NNSA. Isn't that clear to nearly everyone at LANL by now? LANL is going into free fall and LANS is content to watch it happen. Almost every TSM that I know of is now looking for some way to get out before the place totally falls apart.

Anonymous said...

The only good news is that there are probably a couple hundred older folks who would've left if NNSA hadn't been so cheap in the buyout. Another years salary positions a lot of them pretty well and they're just waiting for the RIF.
Surely even LANS management would not be so stupid they would deny those who want to get RIFed and RIF those who don't, would they?

Anonymous said...

Hi Barbara! That was a blog statement that only could be written by you. Keep up the spirit. Your friend(s) from INC-4.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we could get J Pat Trujillo to teach a 'stress' resolution class, seems he's had a bit of experience dealing with the stress that come with being charged with "Child Molestation.

Anonymous said...

Barbara is one crazy bitch!! Anyone who has ever worked with her is worried that she will now come "gunning" for them for some imagined slight. She's been setting up her insanity defense defence for years.

Anonymous said...

Having known Barbara for virtually her entire career at LANL and having worked with her for several stints, I disagree 100% with 9:26.

Anonymous said...

9:26 is exactly the type to watch out for. Silent (at least publicly) and obviously very disturbed. This person apparently got caught doing something wrong and wants to blame someone else for "making her job harder." It should be recognized that the ones who have the most hateful feelings for females are usually females.

Anonymous said...

To: 11:31: How do you know it's a female? Sounds like an internal fued to me. Sounds like the stress levels are extremely high, one simple match could set off some fireworks.

Anonymous said...

How high is the STRESS at LANL? Does anyone including our local newspaper care to find out? Would it be 'shocking' or are we to think that if we don't mention it, it may go away. What are we afraid of? This issue could have far reaching effects on our future and that of the town, if something were to happen. Could you imagine the fallout from a stress related event at say PF-4?

Anonymous said...

LANL is becoming a scary and depressing place at which to work.

Anonymous said...

9:32, ignore 11:31 PM. He is a bitter asshole who thinks women should not be in science and has made sure that his group only hires from the good ole' boys club.

Anonymous said...

4:07 pm: "LANL is becoming a scary and depressing place at which to work."

Really. How much further does it have to go before you say it IS "a scary and depressing place at which to work"?

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked, I've never heard of stress associated with work. This must be a new workplace issue nobody here has ever dealt with. You boss mandating you come into work on time and actually do something...shocking! You people need to get over yourselves.

Anonymous said...

9:02 pm: "I'm shocked, I've never heard of stress associated with work...You people need to get over yourselves."

Yeah, just what we need, somebody without a clue making light of the situation. Get it, asshole, this is serious. If you aren't in it, then good for you, and get out of the way. Those of us who are in it don't need your garbage. This is serious and many people who are serious are scared. Some of us will stand up to the crazies. Some of you will run and hide, once you actually get the situation.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the best way to cure the growing stress problems is for LANS to come up with some new policies. LANS seems to love writing new policies, so this would be a natural method for them to use to solve this problem.

For example, how about a new policy that states that if you see any co-workers who appear to be stressed out, you must immediately report them to your supervisor. This will allow LANS to get rid of the stressed out workers so that LANL can become a stress-free work place.

Mission accomplished, LANS style! Once this new LANS policy is implemented, you'll never again hear anyone at LANL complain about either stress or poor morale.

Anonymous said...

Damm, what if you pissed off most of your co-workers?


You should make up for it by pissing off the boss

Anonymous said...

"You boss mandating you come into work on time and actually do something..."

Ignorant dipwad. It's the sheer impossibility of "actually doing something" at work that's killing LANL and its employees.

Anonymous said...

Here is a 'perfect storm' profile:

A quiet, mentally unstable person who has been harassed by management or peers, who has also been diagnosed with a terminal illness. With nothing holding them back, and nothing to lose, the limit to damage will only be their imagination and the response time of lab security.

Anonymous said...

5:04 PM ... who says they need a terminal illnes ...

Anonymous said...

If I were a manager who has abused or lied to any worker over the past five years or so ... I would be very worried about this article and the scenario put forth by poster 5:04 PM. My guess is that meetings will be held by MIke, his PADs and ADs sometime next week. Maybe they can call it another managements retreat!

Anonymous said...

Citations, please.

Without trivializing the pain the letter writer obviously feels, this letter contains some outrageous and offensive assumptions.

Let's see a real study. No anecdotal evidence, please. Do "quiet" people "go postal" any more frequently than "complainers"? What does "the Virginia Tech. massacre" have to do with conditions at LANL? If it isn't simply fear mongering, then this is a disturbing letter.

If this is really an issue, then perhaps a Meyers-Briggs personality test should be part of the clearance process. Obviously the writer feels that extroverts are more trustworthy than introverts, but surely she has no prejudice there.

And how outspoken does a person have to be to be considered harmless? This seems like a "have you stopped beating your spouse" question: isn't it possible that some people are simply content? Just how much complaining is enough to vent all that explosive anger that the writer sees in "others"?

Anonymous said...

8:53 pm: Your post is too prissy, too self-righteous, and too self-important to respond to seriously. "Citations," indeed. When some crazy person points his AK-47 at you, you'll be asking for "citations" as to why you should be killed. Geeky asshole.

Anonymous said...

The arguments presented by both sides on this issue proves to me only one thing. No one who really knows what is going on posts to this blog anymore. How do I know this? Because no one on this thread mentioned the incident a few months ago involving putting the Jersey bumpers and guards around the NISC next to Metropolis. As a test, let's see if anyone can or dares to complete the story...

Anonymous said...

Back in the days when the Lab thought that training for managers and supervisors was something worth spending money on (i.e., pre-LANS), they used to offer a session at the Management Institute that essentially used the book "Managing at the Speed of Change" as its text. One of the things that they emphasized was that your personal ability to absorb change is influenced by many factors including (duh) how robust is your network of people you trust and can talk to about what's going on. Maybe that's what Barb is talking about in her letter.

Oh, another major theme of the class was management's role in justifying, explaining and preparing the way for the changes. And we know how well THAT's been going, too.

Anonymous said...

To 8:52, go back to where you came from, you are a complete ass-hole. You sir would be the first TARGET!

Anonymous said...

So does all this suggest that the clearance process is of minimal use in weeding out the mentally unstable? Enormous numbers of people getting laid off in different industries, what's the "unstable rate" for those people?

I'd be more worried about being around those whose entire life revolves around LANL - extrovert or introvert, with no stress relievers. Their self-worth is tied to the place.

The LLNL blog has a poll on the side. Given that there are going to be 500+ regulars getting laid off in a couple of weeks, which people in the following groups would you be most apprehensive about being around?

My career defined who I was
22 (18%)

Enjoyed it, but had a life outside too
82 (68%)

Worked and went home 13 (10%)

Not great but loved the pay
2 (1%)

A living hell from day one
0 (0%)

Anonymous said...

"8:53 pm: Your post is too prissy, too self-righteous, and too self-important to respond to seriously. "Citations," indeed. When some crazy person points his AK-47 at you, you'll be asking for "citations" as to why you should be killed. Geeky asshole.

5/11/08 9:43 PM"

You are a clueless idiot.
What proof do you or anyone else have that shows "that the quiet ones" are somehow more lickly to be dangerous than anyone else? At this point it is only Mr Nelsons opinion and nothing more.

Try "thinking" for a change.
Stupid asshole.

Anonymous said...

After spending a couple of decades with one of the silent ones, I can assure you that there is some measure of risk that's accurately described by Ms. Nelson.

The difficulty that her letter really should clarify is that the noisy ones may not be any less risky but you'll be more likely or able to see a potentially volatile event coming from them.

The silent ones who go off are the ones who never share any clues beyond their own front door and thus can introduce the very effective element of surprise into the scenario.

And yes, their families pay a price for the facade that must be kept up in public and it'n not insignificant by any means.

Anonymous said...

"5/12/08 2:10 PM"

Are you really so naive to think you can make a universal conclusion from your one example? Ok I can assure you that what Mr Nelson is saying is completely incorrect. From my years of experience it is always the noisy and loud ones that go off in the end.

Anonymous said...

2:10 here. No, I am not naively suggesting that my one example proves Ms. Nelson's generaliztion. Her statement was a generalization that it is the quiet people who go postal.

My assertion is that there's probably equal risk of going postal for both introverts and extroverts but that advance warning signs of an impending or potential incident, if any are given at all, are more likely to come from extroverts.

Theoretically, advance notice would provide an opportunity for early intervention or prevention.

Oh wait, that may lead to proactive thinking and heaven knows can't have any of that going on around here. And no, I am not saying we need another policy, another training session or another guessing game of what will administratively cover this topic.

Anonymous said...

Who's your worst enemy, the jerk boss who makes your life hell every day at work, idiot upper managers, or the coworker you thought you new who guns you down in the hallway because of some perceived slight, or because you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Look, it is unarguable that these types of incidents occur in many workplaces, but the common thread is perceived or real persecution or disrespect, a stressful workplace, and a long-standing grievance on the part of an employee who has "had enough." Even domestic problems translate to workplace violence. No domestic problems in Los Alamos or the Valley, right? Now is not the time for complacency. Watch your backs, folks. The Pro Force can respond quickly, and with overwhelming force, if they are notified quickly.

Anonymous said...

6:34AM: Already discussed on here.

Anonymous said...

"You are a clueless idiot."
"Try "thinking" for a change.
Stupid asshole." - 5/12/08 11:40 AM

The truly dangerous are the ones like the above who have anger management issues and see little worth in others. When you feel other people are worthless and beyond respect, you can do really evil things to them.

Anonymous said...

"The truly dangerous are the ones like the above who have anger management issues and see little worth in others. When you feel other people are worthless and beyond respect, you can do really evil things to them.

5/13/08 11:11 AM"

Wait I thought it was the sileint ones? So which is it? I think the most dangerous ones are the ones who point out that a certain group of people are the most dangerous.

Anonymous said...

4:36 pm: "I think the most dangerous ones are the ones who point out that a certain group of people are the most dangerous."

Right. And the world is made up of two kinds of people: those who think the world is made up of two kinds of people, and those who don't.

Anonymous said...

ROFLMAO!

This post is a social engineered post and you monkeys fell right into it. It is nothing more than a classical scare tactic to scare the management at LANL. Once again LANLites prove they have no common sense and are quite easily manipulated through words. Why? Because you people only know this world from books that you read. You are so isolated at Los Alamos you have no clue as to how things work in society and the mental games that can be played on you. You are sheep! PLAIN AND SIMPLE!

Anonymous said...

Once again LANLites prove ...[blah, blah, blah]...the mental games that can be played on you. You are sheep! PLAIN AND SIMPLE!

5/13/08 10:45 PM

The social [sic] engineered message is simply an observation of a first-person known to be a LANL employee. Are you an outside 'observer' with greater insight to the impact of current conditions?

So, oh wiser-than-everyone-else, what do you recommend LANLites do? What lessons are you, in your infinite wisdom, going to impart to those who are too sheltered to see for themselves? Since we are such sheep, I'm certain you can lead us to the promised land without much resistance.

Impart. Whatchya got?

Anonymous said...

It is not LANLites. This blog post was referenced from the LLNL blog site. I recognize the illiterate, name calling crowd here. Just pray that they eventually migrate back to the LLNL blog.

Anonymous said...

"Illiterate name calling crowd", sort of like someone railing against quiet people as potentially angry and festering over their impotence, etc, and then personally guaranteeing that outspoken people will never cause any sort of problem beyond their bitchiness, er, healthy venting. I'm sure the letter writer is unbiased and truly unconcerned that she has been justifiably labeled a "problem child". We don't need psycho staff members drawing targets on other staff members and saying "don't take me, take those people I don't care about". She's not been squashed enough, if she's writing whiny letters to the Monitor.

Neko said...

It's going to get really nastey in Livermore tomorrow:

It's going to get pretty nasty tomorrow. Employees will have one hour to pack their office. The escort is only to allow items like pictures and awards. EVERYTHING else will be reviewed by management and if it it determined to be yours, they will pack it and ship it to you.

As for your computer, you will be allowed to create a folder and copy your files to it. Management will review that file when the get around to it and make a CD and send it to you.

You will not be allowed to say goodbuy to friends and coworkers - it's off to the exit center.

The lab will create an email bounce that will basically say the employee you contacted no longer works here. If this is lab business contact someone else. You may contact this employee at home@email.com.

The 200 series with more than 10 years aren't much different.