(163/366) Intangible valuables

June 11, 2012 – I feel very strongly about morals and ethics. Respect and trust are the most valuable things I can offer anyone. You don’t receive them automatically, you earn them through the way you treat me and others around us. They are difficult to earn, and all too easy to lose. I have a very deep seated disdain for dishonesty and lack of integrity. You can be mean or cruel to me, but if you are dishonest or disingenuous, then you have discovered the the fastest way to lose my trust and respect. I can forgive, but it will take a long time to gain those intangible things back again.

I am disappointed when people twist words or ideas to suit their needs, shirk responsibility, or hide a failure. One of my common gripes is plagiarism. I am so very disappointed in people who steal ideas, words, identities, habits, etc, and pass them off as their own. I’ve marked papers that have stolen words from other authors, and one of my most infamous cases was a student who actually used a paper, verbatim, from my former supervisor. What made it comical was that the paper in question actually plagiarized some of my own work. You’d think the student would have had the smarts to realize I’d recognize my own words and those of the people I was co-author with.

But I am equally disappointed when dishonesty goes the other way. When the ideas, words, and thoughts of those who actively contributed to something are consciously omitted, and when information is cherry-picked to meet an agenda.

So yes, I’m cranky about something right now. And I need to vent it, but in a respectful manner and without any names or finger pointing.

It goes something like this.

A few weeks ago, in the upheaval of Kirk’s accident episode and subsequent surgery,  and his father’s death, I was asked to review a document and provide comments on some options some time back. I gave my honest opinion based on some criteria I felt important. I don’t have all the background, but I have a lot in some areas, and those were the areas I provided an unbiased opinion on. I didn’t include considerations of people issues, or the ongoing process that had been underway. I didn’t have those bits of information to consider. I went on what I was given, what I knew from past experience, and what the literature has provided me. Unfortunately, that snowballed a bit since apparently someone else had provided a similar recommendation, but with an agenda. That morphed into forming a small committee to discuss the issue. I provided some input into the information to be presented, based on my own knowledge, conversations with several qualified experts, and a literature search. Again, I worked to maintain an unbiased position and present the facts as I had found them.

The committee met via conference call – all of us in different geographical areas. Three hours later we concluded our conversation and ended on a proposed compromise to the situation. The chair was to write a report outlining our dialogue and recommendations.

So far nothing to be upset about.

I was at a meeting two weeks ago and everyone on the committee was there. The potentially affected party was also present, and openly hostile to all of us. He didn’t make eye contact with me and his body language was terribly angry for the first part of the meeting. Eventually he had the opportunity for a good solid vent and I was left thinking heavily about other aspects of the issue at hand.

It was the first real conflict I’ve felt in this job, and while that, in and of itself, is no big deal, over the course of the next few days I did a lot of thinking about procedures, process, fairness, logic, and professionalism. In the end I came to the conclusion that when the draft document came I would support the original proposal from the standpoint that the entire process was out of line with something that had been underway for a number of years and close to completion. To derail it at this late stage was unfair and unprofessional. The train had already left the station and it should be allowed to continue to its agreed upon destination.

I still stand by my opinion that there is a better alternative than the one that is being fought for, I think that the technology has improved and the disinclination to change is unreasonable. I think that industry leads the way in so many ways and we are foolish to ignore that lead. To fight for a lesser technology is to fight for mediocrity and I’d like to see aspirations for improvement.

But even so, I had decided to stand up for the injured party on this one, mainly on principal.

Unfortunately I wasn’t granted that opportunity.

Last week, one of the committee members sent me an email asking what I thought of the report. I hadn’t received it. He wanted my comments on it as he’d been asked for some information and made the observation that some of my comments had not been captured. I was knee deep in a deadline to get more than a dozen large documents pulled together and simply didn’t have time to look at the copy he had. We both left off assuming that I’d have an opportunity to comment on required edits before the report was sent out to those requesting it.

Well that didn’t happen.

I received an email from the Chair containing the document and three letters “FYI”. Then I received it again, a few minutes later, from my manager, someone outside the committee, it had been forwarded on to others. The Chair had sent it on as the final recommendation before allowing anyone on the committee to review it.

The morals and ethics I learned in the academic world, regarding communication, are ingrained and I had to respond. I sent an email, cc’d to my manager and the rest of the committee indicating that it would have been preferable to have allowed the committee members the opportunity to ensure that their input had been accurately captured, since all of our names are on the document. The response was less than satisfactory and asked for input after the fact. To request comments after the document has been submitted is somewhat meaningless because the damage of introduced bias is done. Had he asked, he may have found that my position had changed somewhat and he may have managed to get the result he apparently wants without having to go behind our backs to get it. I was irritated at the inappropriate end to an otherwise democratic process.

That was before I read it.

After reading it I found that it completely misrepresented my input, did not contain the issues I felt were important considerations, misrepresented another industry completely, and did not contain the final recommendation that we had agreed on as a group. It was biased, untruthful in places, and totally pissed me off! The problem is that I don’t disagree with his final recommendation, but I totally disagree with almost all of the logic used to arrive at the conclusion.

So now the rebuttal is sitting in my draft box at work. If there is one really smart thing my father taught me, it’s that it’s always better to write your thoughts down and then cool off for a day before sending them. In the end you may never send it. A rebuttal is absolutely required here though.

So what to do when I’m now home for the evening, angry at unprofessional conduct by someone in a higher position, and I’m sitting on a rather angry response, but I don’t actually want to change the end conclusion?

Well, I don’t have Kirk around to vent at since he’s on a business trip. So that leaves marking university papers of course. That should cheer me up 😉

Where is the wine?