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Fire the Managers

Entry 1006, on 2009-05-09 at 20:56:30 (Rating 4, Science)

Jim Salinger is one of New Zealand's most well known and respected scientists. He's also currently out of work because he was recently fired from his job at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) after speaking to the media on a subject he is an expert on.

Salinger was one of the early researchers to discuss the issue of global warming and some people are suggesting his support for it might be responsible for him being fired. The new New Zealand government is less committed to taking global warming seriously, especially considering the opinions of the most nutty member of the coalition, Act. But most people think this is an unlikely cause and that pure management incompetence is to blame, and in my experience you should never underestimate management incompetence!

Its common for commercial organisations to limit what their employees are allowed to say to the outside world. I personally think a lot of those limitations are immoral in all cases but they are especially unprincipled when applied to scientists. The fact is that one of the major responsibilities of a scientist is to communicate his work to the public and that communication should be the truth, not some careful scrutinised and sanitised version a public relations manager invents.

I know that its unreasonable to expect that a person should be able to say anything at all to the public but the extreme limitations in place in most organisations today are both unnecessary and unfair. The old excuse of "commercial sensitivity" is just tiresome. Its used as an excuse in so many cases just to avoid having to tell the truth when its too inconvenient.

is there anything wrong with having employees check with their managers first? Well yes, there is. In my experience managers are mediocre, ignorant people who got to their senior position by playing political games better than their colleagues. Seniority in management seems to be rarely associated with real talent. Yes, I know. I don't like managers and I am presenting a stereotype to some extent, but I think it is just too common.

If I wanted to know what the real science involved in a subject was the last person on Earth I would trust is a manager. Even if the information was being presented by a scientist I would be more suspicious of it if I knew it came through the organisation's PR section.

So I think Salinger should be re-employed and the manager who fired him should be fired himself. And all the other managers in this country who try to stop people who are far more talented and skillful than themselves from doing their job properly should also be fired. Getting rid of managers will allow the real workers of this country to get on with their work and when the salaries these idiots are paid is saved we can do something productive with the money instead.


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