Perspectives: Field Notes

Are Good Bosses Nearing Extinction?

Managers who treat their engineers fairly seem increasingly hard to find

By Dirk Willard, Contributing Editor
Jan 31, 2017

“Willard, Willard!” It was the thundering voice of Frank, my boss at the U.S. Air Force’s Rocket Propulsion Development Laboratory. I heard his heavy footsteps, the door flew open, and then he asked: “What did you do?” I braced myself. The day before I had received x-rays of a solid-rocket test motor with voids. A motor like that is dangerous. So, I told our quality control manager at the vendor’s plant not to ship. Yet, the motor arrived at our dock about the time a vice president of the vendor called. He told me our quality control manager had accepted the motor. I replied that wasn’t true. “Are you calling me a liar?” he bellowed. After a pause, I responded, “I guess so.” He belligerently said he would call my boss. “You’ll never work in the rocket industry again,” he declared.

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