RE: laboratory safety issues
Bravo! Brilliantly outlined.
I'm still chuckling...
Manager Histology Core Facility
Stowers Institute for Medical Research
1000 E. 50th St.
Kansas City, Missouri 64110
From: Monson, Frederick C. [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 11:11 AM
Cc: 'Maria Mejia'
Subject: RE: laboratory safety issues
What follows is to some degree intended to be humorous. The
principles of Management of One's Upline, however, are proven by a lifetime
of experience and should not be completely ignored when instruction is
provided. Manipulated with wisdom, they are yours!!!
Background and Introduction: When we were newly married, my wife
and I were approached by a friend who was affiliated with AMWAY. One of the
experiences of life that I learned to articulate from that group was,
"Edifying one's upline." Now, I was always much more interested in the
reverse process, and I quickly adapted their articulation to my own, eternal
predicaments with supervisors. I had developed the capacity, as so many of
us do, to "Manage my upline" so that I could get my work done, get
equipment, and get attention. I learned this skill during my tour of duty
with the Marine Corps, as I rose from Private to Corporal in 15 months
during a peacetime contraction in the Force.
The Method. Management of one's Upline comes in three forms: 1)
Over-compliance; 2) Skillful, marginal compliance, and 3) Non-compliance
that is NOT recognized as non-compliance (the nuclear weapon of
To accomplish the first, one must understand the motivation of
Administrators/Supervisors. First, they want to get THEIR supervisors OFF
their backs. Second, they DO NOT want to hear, what they consider to be
noise, from above or below. Third, they will turn on the weakest of their
subordinates to avoid personal responsibility [This is the administrator's
way of doing what he/she has been told to do and for which he/she has no
expertise or experience.]. This last is the hardest behavior to manage
properly. When this one has happened to me, I have implemented the third of
my management techniques. However, in order to do this, one ordinarily
needs to recognize two facts. First, the solution of any problem is too
expensive to the organization when that solution comes from an inexperienced
expert, that is why they impose it on someone who lacks the knowledge to
implement it and why it ultimately resides WITH an inexperienced
subordinate. Second, one must recognize that in order to implement
unrecognizable non-compliance, one must admit one's lack of capability and
knowledge and COMMIT to becoming far more knowledgeable than the CEO
wanted/expected/hoped for in the first place.
The implementation of this form of management requires the
subordinate to become an expert, all the while knowing that the most
dangerous person in any organization is the one who is an expert without
experience. Then, the subordinate begins writing documents of compliance
that reflect the LETTER/highest level of compliance of the law/expectation.
These documents must be disseminated upwards in the Administrative chain of
command. By executing this management technique wisely, one can easily
overwhelm the Administrative hierarchy with the terrorizing necessity to
make a REAL decision - something that any worthwhile administrator spends a
lifetime avoiding. If YOU have the assignment, then the assignment was
always in the hands of those who lack experience and expertise and wanted it
to GO AWAY! Everything you do will be happily passed upward for a decision,
IF you properly manage the process.
YOUR ADVANTAGE is THE most pervasive characteristic of normal
administrative structures; namely, that no one up there knew enough to make
a proper assignment. You ARE in charge by a normal default mechanism of
administrative structures. Most administrators caught in this process do
not recognize their mistake until it is too late. Proper management by the
LEAST of those will result in a future administrative decision that goes
something like this. "Let's assign this job to someone else." On the other
side of this issue, at their expense, you will have become an inexperienced
expert in matters that increasingly require expert attention. Go consult!
In the case of laboratory safety in particular, one merely has to BE
an inexperienced expert to succeed with the third method of upline
management. Documents reflecting the letter of the law and letters - a
paper trail - that demonstrate over-competence (NEVER welcome in such
situations), and estimates, quotations from monitoring and sterilizing firms
with justifications replete with reasons both legal and practical that such
jobs must be farmed out, and, finally, at budget time, the worst stroke of
all, the request for a substantial amount of money to support the in-house
safety program (web site development, a computer, pay for computers and
databases of dangerous/hazardous chemicals, proper hazard control in every
lab, egress routes, and safety-oriented hazardous chemical acquisition
methods. Recommendations for safe storage that create a hazard to
administrative sanity and will require the construction of isolated,
monitored and explosion proof storage buildings, and finally, the one that
ultimately knocks them dead: an explosion-proof refrigerator in every lab.
The whole panoply of REASONABLE and NECESSARY safety measures can cost
millions, and certainly tens of thousands, and this is just in your home!
It is also absolutely critical to NEVER, NEVER request more salary. This is
a dead giveaway that you are 'jobbing' them! Outline the problem of safety
as you see it, then expand the outline to include every 'unsafe' matter that
you can 'see' or find defined. Now the cool part. Each of these items in
the outline - every twig and branch get attention in a document - as many as
you can manage without showing complete insensitivity to the local tree
population. Volume and frequency of upward migrating information are the
cornerstone of this approach. You must appear to be working yourself to
death on their assignment. Build a record of excellence that will literally
bury them. Teach them and keep a record of what you are doing. Give safety
lectures and structure them according to the letter of the law, which YOU
must obey in this job with such AWESOME responsibility. [When I was in the
Marine Corps, I was assigned the task of giving lectures to the 'troops'
about "personal hygiene" when on leave, because I had college microbiology.
After the STD film was done, I taught them about the encystment of
gonococcus and antibiotic resistance. Through my diligence and attention to
detail, I was quickly replaced by another college man who had no courses in
biology. Again, management of my upline had worked like a charm. I was
back playing bridge after only one "lecture". In this instance, I think I
used a combination of methods 1 and 3.
I know of no better way than this to enable your rapid return to
that for which you were trained and hired. At the first sign of
over-competence in an area that administrators want to see disappear your
reassignment becomes practically assured. If THEY are serious, on the other
hand, the third strategy backfires, but then they can neither afford to take
your recommendations or to see you leave for the job you were just offered
by that head hunter.
Frederick C. Monson, PhD
The best research
Center for Advanced Scientific Imaging
occurs before work
West Chester University
at the bench.
West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA, 19383
> From: Maria Mejia
> Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2002 2:49 PM
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: laboratory safety issues
> Hello Everyone!
> I need some advise and assistance regarding laboratory safety issues and
> the role of the Safety Officer. I'm a neurohistologist that works 75%.
> For several
> months, I've been working on a detail chemical hygiene plan for our
> institute in
> addition to my histology work. I even started a library of various
> safety books and
> safety videotapes for everyone to use at the institute. In addition to
> my histology
> duties (which currently dip and peak depending on the research project &
> PI), I've
> also been assigned the safety duties for the institute, that includes
> providing safety
> training sessions for EVERYONE at the institute.
> I was told by administration that all this is all part of my job as a
> histologist. I say it's
> above and beyond and my salary should be adjusted to reflect this. Am I
> Please any assistance or suggestions you can provide will be greatly
> Now, I've gone through all my safety literature and no one talks about
> salary for the
> Safety Officer they only list and it's a long list of duties.
> Maria Mejia
> Smith-Kettlewell Eye Res. Inst
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