Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'm Humbled by Your Support

A couple weeks ago I penned a letter to the editor of Focus FAA, the FAA's website. I wrote about that in this post. I had a few guys at work come up to me and thank me for what I'd written but I didn't think much more about it. I was online a couple days ago when I saw a thread on our union's message board titled "Two Cents Worth". Paul W had found a response on the FAA's website to my letter from a supervisor at Houston Center. No doubt the tone of the letter is what made it stand out to Paul. It reads:

A Supervisor Responds

After reading Kevin Gilmore's thoughts on Jerry Lavey's article on leadership, I had a couple of pertinent thoughts (see “Boot To The Throat” in last week's “Your Two Cents”). Allow me to retort: "There's been no leadership exemplified by FAA management for far too many years," you said. You mean you can't find any leadership, Nada, not a smidgen, not even one iota of leadership? You must feel so lost, adrift in a sea of leaderless employees. Who was your last true leader? Jane Garvey? If so, remember, she gave the farm away. Is that what you mean by "…lead(Inga) by example?"

Here's a possible reason for the pay disparity between you and me: I'm finally being compensated for having to deal with your negative, whining, everyone's-an-idiot-but-yourself attitude you so clearly expressed in your little written tantrum. We have a couple of Kevins at our facility, too. That's where we supervisors earn our money. And yes, just so you'll know, my pay is capped too.

Your writing skills are actually quite advanced. You're not an unintelligent man. But using this gift to personally attack someone whose writing ability is far above mine and yours, and who consistently makes cogent and fair summations in everything I have read by him, indicates to me that you have some underlying anger/stress issues that might need addressing in a professional setting.

Final point: You said: "One can't help but be amazed that they actually pay you to write this tripe." I'll wager that people in the private sector would be amazed to know how you feel about your bosses and actually choose to stay in your job. I'm also quite sure that if you wrote your venomous screed in a public forum while employed in a private enterprise, the choice to stay in that job would no longer be yours.

Frank Whiten
Southwest Region

I'm stunned. I must have touched a nerve with Frank. I was under the impression that even dissenting voices were welcome. Apparently FAA management has little time for those of us who dare question their ways as Frank's letter so clearly shows. But forget all that; I'm actually bothered more by the assertion by someone in FAA management who doesn't know me but would feel emboldened to say in a public forum that I have anger issues and am in need of professional help. To me, that crosses a line. I'd have no problem if he wanted to attack what I'd said. I expected as much. But I didn't expect to have someone in management actually say what was said. Possibly even more disturbing is that the editor(s) of Focus FAA would actually publish it. I've read many editorials on the site before but nothing I can recall which sunk to the level of Frank's letter. And I don't think I'm feeling that way simply because it's me the charges were leveled at.

Sure, I took a swipe at the Jerry Lavey's writing by calling it 'tripe' but I never suggested that Mr. Lavey has some emotional instability which was in need of professional help. That would've been unprofessional and unacceptable for me to say. I suppose I could possibly get away with saying that in a private email with him but not in a public forum. After reading Mr. Whiten's letter to me and the rest of the world I drafted one of my own to Focus FAA:

Frank Whiten accuses me (see "A Supervisor Responds" in last week's "Your Two Cents") of having anger issues in his response to my letter in Your Two Cents (see "Boot to the Throat", March 17th). Um, yes, Frank, I'm angry about the hypocrisy we're force-fed out here in the field day after day. No doubt you would be too if the tables were turned but would it be fair for me to say that you had anger issues? No, it wouldn't. Please don't insult me by comparing my anger about blatant hypocrisy with 'anger issues' and then suggesting that I need professional help. That's a leap for you to make but one which certainly speaks to a lack of leadership I mentioned.

Feel free to personally write or call my facility manager for his opinion about me. I have no doubt that he'll tell you that he would take a facility full of people with my work ethic, attitude and ability in a heartbeat. You have my permission to discuss me with him. Also, feel free to come back here and publicly apologize to me once you have the facts.

Thank you.


Kevin Gilmore

A couple posts down from Paul W's on the Natca forum was a post from Paul Cox stating his intention to write a blog post about Frank Whiten's ill-conceived words. Paul Cox writes a blog called The FAA Follies and he does a beautiful job of pointing out all things wrong with the FAA. It takes a lot of work to keep a blog interesting and informative. Paul does a lot of fact-finding and piecing together of information in a way that few people can. It's a daily stop for me; oftentimes more than once for the comments which follow his posts. Fortunately for Paul, the FAA gives him a fair amount of material to draw from.

Read Paul's words here: Gettin' Personal (Paul's blog no longer exists.)

In addition to Paul, Natca's former president, John Carr, also weighed in with his perspective on the matter: Pen Pals (WITH Benefits!)

And one last blog. Tim (whom I work with) also has a few things to say to close this out: The FAA Big Stick Again (Tim's blog no longer exists.)

I'm very humbled by the support from all of you who took the time to write about or comment on the blogs about this. My one hope is that people will gain an understanding of what is happening within the FAA and know that it is all so unnecessary and WRONG. My friends and family outside the FAA are surprised to find how disenchanted I've become with my job these past few years. I love controlling airplanes and I can't think of anything I'd rather do. It's my hope and my prayer that someday soon FAA management will once again value and respect those of us who remain in the trenches doing the demanding work of air traffic control.


Anonymous said...

You're famous! Or is that notorious?...

Anyway, it's thoughtful, measured comments from controllers like you that make the rest of us look good too and only strengthens our argument/case that FAA management is arbitrary, unfair, and out of control.

And it's nasty comments like those your comment invoked from one of the FAA managers that show their true colors.

I'm amazed as well that the editors of FAA Focus published Frank's comment. It shows how clueless they are, or that they encourage/like that kind of venom directed at controllers.

Either way the tone and comment of his comment is inexcusable (as is the FAA attitude towards its employees).

Anonymous said...

Er, I meant to say "the tone of his comment"...

Anonymous said...

Kevin: your letter was great. I have no problem with your use of the word "tripe" because it means rubbish and/or falsehoods, and that's what lavey writes. It's good grammar and good writing, dude. Unfortunately, people who merely pretend to be smart MUST resolve to name calling and personal insults to make their points, like whiten did.

Did you send your 2nd letter into faafocus (which I happily NEVER read, BTW)? If you haven't sent it yet, I suggest you do a little research into the faa's code of conduct and discipline. I am 99.9999% sure there is a little ditty in there about making disparaging comments about another federal employee. Mr Whiten could be disciplined for what he's done/said. It might be a good learning experience for him. What i was most amazed at was his implication that Lavey's your boss! Comical.

The only things that shone through in that exchange were your integrity and the truth of your words, and what a jackass whiten is.

Anonymous said...

That Whiten Guy sounds like a loose cannon. Is he ZHU facility manager? Someone needs to put a foot up his ass.

Kevin said...

Tim, Thanks. If they have any problem with what I'm writing I'll simply tell them to stop me when I'm lying.

TC...yes, I did send the 2nd letter off as soon as I found the response was out there.

Whiten's response to me really is a microcosm of what is wrong between labor and management in the FAA. Perhaps somebody could forward this exchange on up the line as a way of summing up where we are out in the field today.

This exact sort of heavy-handedness came into play when I had a letter of reprimand placed in my file nearly one year ago. There was nothing fair about that process and I felt there was no use in even defending myself.

So much needs to change. I hear that change is coming.

Anonymous said...

I *hear* change is coming, too. But everyday I'm becoming more and more skeptical. It may be the only change I see is the one I make 2 yrs, 4 mos, 5 days from now!!