Monday, November 15, 2010

Loyalty: an idea from the past?

Brian from pharmnbiofuel comments on the last post:
My second job lasted almost 8 years in Big Pharma and it seems that now, just like everyone else, there is no security for the employee and no accountability from the employer. We all have to be ready jump ship at any moment. This is on top of an abyssmal employment market for chemists. How does this affect everyone's loyalty to one company when contracts are so short? Not good. 
Brian said the magic word: loyalty. A favorite passage from American popular literature springs to mind; I've been trying to figure out a way to fit it into the blog, and now I have a chance:
The Great Depression increased the power of Vito Corleone. And indeed it was about that time that he came to be called Don Corleone. Everywhere in the city, honest men begged for honest work in vain. Proud men demeaned themselves and their families to accept official charity from a contemptuous officialdom. But the men of Don Corleone walked the streets with their heads held high, their pockets stuffed with silver and paper money. With no fear of losing their jobs. And even Don Corleone, that most modest of men, could not help feelings a sense of pride. He had not failed those who depended on him and gave him the sweat of their brows, risked their freedom and their lives in his service. And when an employee of his was arrested and sent to prison by some mischance, that unfortunate man's family received a living allowance; and not a miserly, beggarly, begrudging pittance but the same amount the man earned when free. 
This of course was not pure Christian charity. Not his best friends would have called Don Corleone a saint from heaven. There was some self-interest in this generosity. An employee sent to prison knew he had only to keep his mouth shut and his wife and children would be cared for. He knew that if he did not inform to the police a warm welcome would be his when he left prison. There would be a party waiting in his home, the best of food, homemade ravioli, wine, pastries, with all his friends and relatives gathered to rejoice in his freedom. And sometime during the night the Consigliere, Genco Abbandando, or perhaps even the Don himself, would drop by to pay his respects to such a stalwart, take a glass of wine in his honor, and leave a handsome present of money so that he could enjoy a week or two of leisure with his family before returning to his daily toil. Such was the infinite sympathy and understanding of Don Corleone.
Of course, our chemical and pharmaceutical employers are most certainly not Vito Corleone (and, of course, organized crime is not the poetically just place that Hollywood makes it to be.) Nevertheless, loyalty is a two-way street, and these days, it seems one of those lanes is closed.

9 comments:

  1. Words cannot express my agreement with this post.
    A Salut'

    ReplyDelete
  2. Employers feel that their employees should give absolute loyalty due to the horrible state of the economy and our field. They demand the production of science in the face of constant induced fear of frequent mass layoffs. It feels like chemistry has become piece work, a commodity. It seems like this is not a good environment to produce good science.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Chemists (and other scientists, as a whole) are not built for revolution. We're taught to follow the rules, that any missteps are our own, if only we'd worked harder, more weekends, more holidays, more experiments. In that environment, who stops to notice their surroundings?

    They say a goldfish grows to fit its tank. Well, our tanks are between the bench and a hood, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @8:16
    So true. It took a layoff for me to notice my surroundings. I worked many weekend and holidays, and did it help? No.

    Still after finding a new position, its difficult to not fall back into the same trap. As a chemist you think if I can just work harder, then you will be irreplaceable. "They" will notice what a good job you are doing. For chemists we answer challenges at work by getting in more anti-social hood time. In the real world, anti-social behavior is not rewarded.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Godfather is the I-ching. The Godfather is the sum of all wisdom. The Godfather is the answer to any question. What should I pack for my summer vacation? "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." What day of the week is it? "Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday."--Tom Hanks in You've Got Mail

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Anon 4:55 - you hit the nail right on the head! Why is it, as chemists, we're not encouraged to communicate more? I've heard that profs are less likely than before to send students to conferences to give talks, and even poster presenting seems to be less important. Maybe the funding climate? It's all "grants, grants, papers, grants, grants"

    ReplyDelete
  7. mentioning Don Corleone: I hear that Juarez cartel pays better wages than pharma and the job security is about the same...

    ReplyDelete
  8. At least if the Juarez job goes to crap you go out in a blaze of glory rather than the slow creeping death that is afflicting chemists now.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "To thine own self be true.". Do what is best for you, damn the company, which is always conjuring up ways to replace you.

    ReplyDelete