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Friday, June 01, 2018

Everyone always knows

It's remarkable how often these big corporate scams are totally obvious from the start. And as a general rule, if the founder is putting on Ted Talks and blathering on about saving the world instead of desperately trying to keep their head above water, you can be pretty sure it's a scam of some sort.
The biggest problem of all was the dysfunctional corporate culture in which it was being developed. Holmes and Balwani regarded anyone who raised a concern or an objection as a cynic and a nay-sayer. Employees who persisted in doing so were usually marginalized or fired, while sycophants were promoted.

Employees were Balwani’s minions. He expected them to be at his disposal at all hours of the day or night and on weekends. He checked the security logs every morning to see when they badged in and out. Every evening, around 7:30, he made a flyby of the engineering department to make sure people were still at their desks working.

With time, some employees grew less afraid of him and devised ways to manage him, as it dawned on them that they were dealing with an erratic man-child of limited intellect and an even more limited attention span. Arnav Khannah, a young mechanical engineer who worked on the miniLab, figured out a surefire way to get Balwani off his back: answer his emails with a reply longer than 500 words. That usually bought him several weeks of peace because Balwani simply didn’t have the patience to read long emails. Another strategy was to convene a biweekly meeting of his team and invite Balwani to attend. He might come to the first few, but he would eventually lose interest or forget to show up.

While Holmes was fast to catch on to engineering concepts, Balwani was often out of his depth during engineering discussions. To hide it, he had a habit of repeating technical terms he heard others using. During a meeting with Khannah’s team, he latched onto the term “end effector,” which signifies the claws at the end of a robotic arm. Except Balwani didn’t hear “end effector,” he heard “endofactor.” For the rest of the meeting, he kept referring to the fictional endofactors. At their next meeting with Balwani two weeks later, Khannah’s team brought a PowerPoint presentation titled “Endofactors Update.” As Khannah flashed it on a screen with a projector, the five members of his team stole furtive glances at one another, nervous that Balwani might become wise to the prank. But he didn’t bat an eye and the meeting proceeded without incident. After he left the room, they burst out laughing.

Khannah and his team also got Balwani to use the obscure engineering term “crazing.” It normally refers to a phenomenon that produces fine cracks on the surface of a material, but Khannah and his colleagues used it liberally and out of context to see if they could get Balwani to repeat it, which he did. Balwani’s knowledge of chemistry was no better. He thought the chemical symbol for potassium was P (it’s K; P is the symbol for phosphorus)—a mistake most high school chemistry students wouldn’t make.
The amusing thing, of course, is the way in which these idiot engineers were clearly more interesting in proving that they were smarter than Balwani than they were in the fact that he was the guy upon whom their paychecks, stock options, and careers all depended.

And almost everyone seems to want to believe. Remember, I called BS on this woman the moment I heard her talk, just like I did on Jordan Peterson. The only difference is that even the true believers now understand that Holmes was a fraud. Most people still don't grasp that Peterson is a charlatan too.
Another phrase stuck out in the talk. She said something about transformative technology which has a magical ring, like Steve Jobs dancing on a cloud of air. From now until forever, if anyone ever says transformative technology in a talk, find the exit door.

Then she decried the appalling lack of access.

"People could not get copies of their own lab results!" she said. We can buy a snake! A military truck! A tank! Yet, we can't order a simple blood-based pregnancy test.

Think about it! Someone is worried, nervous--distraught. There is a dark cloud. Anxiety. Nerves. You can feel it. And yet...you can't buy a simple blood test on your own!

"When individuals have access to the information about their bodies they can begin to change outcomes," said Holmes. She used plenty of interesting factoids. She said words like engagement, knowledge, and access. She shifted to a personal story. She lulled us, she calmed us. She talked about things we care about. That are quite serious.

And yet, we were not really listening.

She never really said anything about the science.

Or the tests.

Or the clinics.

Or anything concrete.

Labels: ,

88 Comments:

Blogger Resident Moron™ June 01, 2018 4:25 AM  

"... were clearly more interesting in proving that they were smarter than Balwani than they were in the fact that he was the guy upon whom their paychecks, stock options, and careers all depended."

... and now they're all talking about how they always knew, as if that will salvage their careers, admitting that they knowingly worked for liars, fraudsters, charlatans and fools.

Like the Weinsteinian Explosion of #MeToo sluts who all knew for decades but kept silent while silence was the path to advancement and who suddenly grew principles when talking became the path to advancement.

I would not employ either.

Blogger Dirk Manly June 01, 2018 4:42 AM  

Pound-MeToo Electric Boogaloo

Blogger The Observer June 01, 2018 4:51 AM  

Somewhat OT:

Speaking of scams, I hear Star Citizen is offering a new Legatus ship package for 27k.

https://mmopulse.com/news/star-citizen-offers-the-legatus-pack-for-27000-usd-requires-having-spent-1000-just-to-view

Blogger Cloudbuster June 01, 2018 5:00 AM  

My experience has been that a smart engineer has little difficulty walking away from a disastrously failed company and landing a good job. Few of the low-level engineers will see much, if any, career blowback from this. That's why they had their fun. Of course, that doesn't mean they are not terrible, short-sighted people.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 01, 2018 5:04 AM  

So the engineers caught onto the large-scale fraud and decided that smaller-scale fraud against the initial fraudsters was the best policy.

If that doesn't speak to the culture that is growing in modern organizations, I don't know what does.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 01, 2018 5:08 AM  

It's not the engineers' future job opportunities that concern me.

It's the ease with which each stepped over the corpse of their integrity.

Blogger SidVic June 01, 2018 5:13 AM  

I have a buddy, New York investor, lawyer type, that bounces investment ideas off me because i'm a biomedical researcher. He asked me about Holmes and her "tech". I told him that given what was public i could not understand the clever concept. Usually (99/100 times) when i can't understand something it's bullshit. But maybe not? I also related that as an attractive woman (highly debatable) they seemed to be pumping her (yah woman in tech). Somehow she capitalized 1 billion+ so it must have been more sophisticated con than i gleaned.

Blogger Dirk Manly June 01, 2018 5:24 AM  

@7 Gullible nerds with money

Blogger Don't Call Me Len June 01, 2018 5:39 AM  

If anyone ever bothered to effectively enforce fraud statutes, aren't they all openly admitting they're co-conspirators, or at least accessories, in a billion dollar fraud?

Blogger James Dixon June 01, 2018 5:45 AM  

> The amusing thing, of course, is the way in which these idiot engineers were clearly more interesting in proving that they were smarter than Balwani than they were in the fact that he was the guy upon whom their paychecks, stock options, and careers all depended.

Vox, how many engineers have you ever met who have any idea how businesses work?

Blogger Steve June 01, 2018 5:50 AM  

these idiot engineers were clearly more interesting in proving that they were smarter than Balwani than they were in the fact that he was the guy upon whom their paychecks, stock options, and careers all depended

Not sure if it's a bindi thing or a techie thing. I'd guess the latter as there's a lot of white engineers whose default position is "Me a lot smarterer than them idiots in sales and management and customer decision makers who make more money than me".

This email trick:

a surefire way to get Balwani off his back: answer his emails with a reply longer than 500 words.

Works in most organisations, even the legit ones. It's not a question of patience, execs simply don't have the time to read long, spergy walls of text, not if they want to also catch most of their phone calls, IM's, conf calls and face to face meetings.

Email is killing businesses. It's digital kibble, it's the devil intextate. Anybody who can devise an email replacement that works for business (NOT social media like experiences, those suck too) will become a multi billionaire.

Blogger Don't Call Me Len June 01, 2018 6:01 AM  

@11 - A device or app that forced people to be more succinct? You wouldn't just be a multi-billionaire, you'd rule the planet.

Blogger Sillon Bono June 01, 2018 6:03 AM  

>> Email is killing businesses.
>> It's digital kibble, it's the devil intextate.
>> Anybody who can devise an email replacement that works for business (NOT social media like experiences, those suck too) will become a multi billionaire.

That is what someone who doesn't understand how shit works would say.

Email is an invaluable tool for business. That midwits can't use or comprehend it doesn't surprise me the sightless, and if you think they'll know how to use the replacement better you're delusional.

I'm sorry but trying to replace email at this point is IMHO a retarded proposition.

The problem is not the medium, it is whether you can sort the flow of information you need to dealt with on a daily basis. Some people are simply trying to do too much in a short amount of time, all the bloody time. And they lack the capacity or the knowledge to do so.

Trust me regardless of its flaws, for communication email is the best thing since slice bread.

Blogger Harambe June 01, 2018 6:09 AM  

Don't Call Me Len wrote:@11 - A device or app that forced people to be more succinct? You wouldn't just be a multi-billionaire, you'd rule the planet.

It's called Skype.

Blogger JACIII June 01, 2018 6:23 AM  

Cargo cult company run by a woman and an Indian. The Executive diversity quotient alone should ring an alarm bell.

As for the engineers, they are often willfully ignorant and stubbornly uninterested in how a company functions or even generates income. Their brains are organized to put financials in someone else's inbox, where they assume/depend it will be competently and conscientiously handled. Having never sat across the negotiating table with the "suits" they don't suspect how short sighted, pig ignorant, and venal "suits" often are even at the expense of their own source of income.

Blogger Al Du Clur June 01, 2018 6:34 AM  

"Holmes and Balwani regarded anyone who raised a concern or an objection as a cynic and a nay-sayer. Employees who persisted in doing so were usually marginalized or fired, while sycophants were promoted."

I worked in Silicon valley for 20 years as an executive, entrepreneur and consultant to CEOs. By the end I saw that culture as the norm in tech. Everyone has to be positive and thriving in the culture requires jumping on popular bandwagons and riding along even if people know they will end up being disastrous for the company.

According to a couple of Organizational Behavior consultants, that is a survival tactic common throughout American business now. They chronicle this in their essay "Stupified: you don't have to be stupid to work here but it helps" (https://aeon.co/essays/you-don-t-have-to-be-stupid-to-work-here-but-it-helps). B

I saw everything in their essay while in tech and since then I have shown it to execs I have consulted to in other industries and they say that everything in the essay happens in their companies too.I

The rise of happy talk and the workplace as a cult seems to be tied to a significant extent to the rise of women in the workforce.

I once asked a woman who was a top exec at a multi billion dollar revenue public company what she looks for as top priorities in execs that work for her and in her best valley girl voice she said she wanted execs who were "positive and enthusiastic!!!!" Kind of sums up the modern business world for me.

Blogger Daniel Paul Grech Pereira June 01, 2018 6:35 AM  

This could be written about officers vs NCO's in the military. Balwani sounds like the typical university fag trying to play soldier with a bunch of dirty working class killers.

Blogger Mark Stoval June 01, 2018 6:44 AM  

@16 " ... in her best valley girl voice she said she wanted execs who were "positive and enthusiastic!!!!" Kind of sums up the modern business world for me."

The problems of modern America and its corporate culture is going to kill the USA. Hell, it may be as bad by itself as all the other problems discussed here.

Vox could write a book on how federal intrusion into corporations, finance, and taxes has helped to cause the shithole culture of the modern corporation.

I once had a co-worker call me about a problem on Easter Sunday. I hung up on the bastard. He called me on the most holy day of the year! (well, it is to me)

Blogger Dirk Manly June 01, 2018 6:46 AM  

Was he Jewish?

Blogger realist June 01, 2018 6:49 AM  

There's a cartoonist that's made hundreds of millions of dollars by satirizing guys like Balwani into the infamous Pointy Haired Boss. Not really surprising the grunts don't respect executives that fit that stereotype.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 01, 2018 6:58 AM  

"on how federal intrusion into corporations, finance, and taxes has helped to cause the shithole culture of the modern corporation."

Chalk that up to overgrown gov in general. We're overdue for a culling, and in that regard best-case scenario Trump is little more than a muscle relaxant.

It's not going to shrink via its own means, and it's so overweight at this point that even if it somehow cut the fat, the fat would cause a civil war by itself.

Blogger Steb June 01, 2018 7:10 AM  

Cloudbuster June 01, 2018 5:00 AM
My experience has been that a smart engineer has little difficulty walking away from a disastrously failed company and landing a good job. Few of the low-level engineers will see much, if any, career blowback from this. That's why they had their fun. Of course, that doesn't mean they are not terrible, short-sighted people.


But this isn't just a dumb startup idea that never took off. Everyone there must have known they were faking medical tests. What ethical company would hire a Theranos employee now, knowing what they're prepared to turn a blind eye to?

At the very least, it's going to make for an awkward interview question, when they get asked what they liked least about their previous job.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 01, 2018 7:21 AM  

"What ethical company would hire a Theranos employee now, knowing what they're prepared to turn a blind eye to?"

Silicon Valley. Ethical? Sure, for certain values of ethics.

Moral? Pfft.

Blogger Galt-in-Da-Box June 01, 2018 7:33 AM  

Having worked for an office equipment & supply firm with similar "leadership talent" *ahem* all I can say is start looking around when this and other signs appear that The Boss is a no-talent ass-clown who inherited his position. Almost everyone else in the company ignored them until the ship sank.

Blogger Steve June 01, 2018 7:36 AM  

Email is an invaluable tool for business.

Bullshit. Email is where meaning goes to die. It's a digital sewer of TLDR, petty CC ALL slapfights, arse-covering vaguetxt, pointless marketing bumph, spam, begging for charities, and cat pictures.

Maybe folks down your end of the corporate totem pole have the time to sift through all that digital diarrhoea to find the odd peanut or half-used suppository, but busy people with grown-up responsibilities don't.

And an udder thing about email: it encourages a culture of hiding, as if we were French. Don't send me bad news at 1729 on a Friday before you run out of the office and leave scorch marks across the car park, phone me like a man, so I can bollock you in real time until you run off crying to HR like a little pussy. And don't get me started on entire departments hiding behind an email alias.

Some people are simply trying to do too much in a short amount of time, all the bloody time. And they lack the capacity or the knowledge to do so.

Typical sperg.txt. Listen, dingus, the modern world is what it is. It's not changing to suit us. Customers who spend millions don't give a toss about how busy you are, ICT Director Veruca Salt wants it NOW, or she'll go with the outfit across the road.

And she wants it CHEAP, so there's no chance of the steno pool making a comeback, more's the pity. Although we'd struggle to find enough slim, attractive girls these days anyway.

Blaming the users is so stupid you'd need to be a Microsoft Certified Professional to even consider it. The tools need to be fit the people, not the other way around. A fatwa on email. Burn the Outlook servers. Room 101 for Office 365.

Blogger tz June 01, 2018 7:54 AM  

Uber may be next, or it will fizzle to nothing over a long time like whatever is left of AOL or Yahoo.

But it isn't like the engineers didn't know someone at the top was clueless. Many places have a Chief Interference Officer or VP of Butting in. Usually it was the brother or Uncle, etc. of the owner of the company that everyone knew would never be fired so you had to figure out how to shield the china shop from the bull.

But proves another observation I have made - the biggest change between 1960 and 2010 was in time preference. Across society. 1960, marriage til death do we part, you retired at the same company you started with (often janitors or secretaries or blue collar would become managers, accountants, etc). Even blue collar was on seniority, so you wanted to stay so as to be the last one laid off and the first one called back. Vesting for retirement. Your paycheck depended on low time preference.

With "startups" your paycheck depends on high time preference. You don't have a pension, you have a 401k. You don't have any thought of a guarantee of work - we don't remember the dot-bombs, only the billionaires of today (Nokia? Osborne? Commodore?)

Since the paycheck is dependent on lots of things out of their control, and even dependent on keeping this Mountebank away, their behavior is more than rational.

Christendom could build a Cathedral that took 3 generations from start to completion. We throw away $1000 phones every two years.

Blogger JACIII June 01, 2018 7:57 AM  

Al Du Clur wrote:"Holmes and Balwani regarded anyone who raised a concern or an objection as a cynic and a nay-sayer. Employees who persisted in doing so were usually marginalized or fired, while sycophants were promoted."

According to a couple of Organizational Behavior consultants, that is a survival tactic common throughout American business now. They chronicle this in their essay "Stupified: you don't have to be stupid to work here but it helps" (https://aeon.co/essays/you-don-t-have-to-be-stupid-to-work-here-but-it-helps).




Excellent recommendation.

Blogger JACIII June 01, 2018 8:04 AM  

Steve wrote:Email is an invaluable tool for business.

Bullshit. Email is where meaning goes to die. It's a digital sewer of TLDR, petty CC ALL slapfights, arse-covering vaguetxt, pointless marketing bumph, spam, begging for charities, and cat pictures.

Maybe folks down your end of the corporate totem pole have the time to sift through all that digital diarrhoea to find the odd peanut or half-used suppository, but busy people with grown-up responsibilities don't.



I have seen this go good and bad. In the end, it's on the boss. The best boss I ever had confined employee use of email to critical action items and did not tolerate BS ass-covering emails. Something had to rise to a certain mission-critical level to be eligible for an email. Low level day to day was handled face to face in passing, texting, or phone calls.

This is not difficult. I saw employees loose company email access over this. It worked.

Blogger michimartini June 01, 2018 8:09 AM  

Nope, it's called slack.

Blogger Nathan June 01, 2018 8:13 AM  

@SidVic

In regard to it being "a more sophisticated con than I gleaned," there's this from Balwani's wiki:

"While enrolled at Berkeley, Balwani met Elizabeth Holmes, who was in her senior year of high school, on a summer trip to Beijing. He then went to Stanford University but dropped out.[2][3]"

So... it sounds like the oldest con in history. I can't imagine any plausible professional or technical reasons a middle aged man would follow a high school girl off to college. Maybe she'll go full #metoo.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd June 01, 2018 8:15 AM  

@15 explains @4. Engineers generally care abput competence and performance, and assume business types do, too.

Steve wrote:... there's a lot of white engineers whose default position is "Me a lot smarterer than them idiots in sales and management and customer decision makers who make more money than me".


At engineering schools, the business school is stuffed with failed engineers. Odds are that many of the engineers are smarter than many of the b-school grads. The world is run by the C students.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother June 01, 2018 8:16 AM  

I can attest to engineers, techs, and other back office people (even accountants!!) not knowing how a business works.

Example 1: Service department manager at Canadian office on the phone with refinery engineers, discussing the fate of a 20 year old piece of equipment that is five years past its lifespan. He recommends fixing it instead of buying a new one. 130,000.00 sale evaporates. This was my fault due to inexperience. Now I would have called him previously to prepare, coach, etc.

Example 2: AR specialist tells someone she made the company 5 million dollars worth of business this month. She knows this because she entered the bookings.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother June 01, 2018 8:20 AM  

Email is sk essential I can't imagine not having it. It is how communications and projects are tracked, documented, etc. Face to face conversations are absolutely necessary, but emails are where history, evidence and the paper trail are recorded for posterity. If nothing more, it can save your bacon by proving that X requirement was not in the original scope, someone agreed to that, or to prove engagement with customers when a slimy piece of shit sales guy is trying to steal your commission money .

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 01, 2018 8:22 AM  

"Bullshit. Email is where meaning goes to die. It's a digital sewer of TLDR, petty CC ALL slapfights, arse-covering vaguetxt, pointless marketing bumph, spam, begging for charities, and cat pictures."

9/10 of that is entirely on the workplace for not banning it or shutting it down, and the rest will occur in any and every single other form of communication.

The only downsides to e-mail that a company doesn't necessarily bring upon itself are communication delays (depending on the server and/or location) and the inability to watch someone's face for tells that they're lying.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd June 01, 2018 8:23 AM  

Steve wrote:Bullshit. Email is where meaning goes to die. It's a digital sewer of TLDR, petty CC ALL slapfights, arse-covering vaguetxt, pointless marketing bumph, spam, begging for charities, and cat pictures.

JACIII wrote:I have seen this go good and bad. In the end, it's on the boss. The best boss I ever had confined employee use of email to critical action items and did not tolerate BS ass-covering emails.

Email is how you document conversations. Conversations, on the phone or in the hall, are how you accomplish stuff. Assume your boss doesn't read your emails, and brief him if it's important to him. If it's not important to your boss, why are you wasting your time on it?

If the girls in the office want to waste bandwidth on cat pictures and cat fights, that's probably a sign there are too many girls and not enough work.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother June 01, 2018 8:24 AM  

We are too spread out for that, Azure. Email is great, because you can prove what you're claiming with an archived email, or use it in a rare face to face and then tell whether someone is lying.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 01, 2018 8:28 AM  

"there's a lot of white engineers whose default position is "Me a lot smarterer than them idiots in sales and management and customer decision makers who make more money than me"

Please. HR makes more than engineers all the time. Just because someone makes more money doesn't mean they should.

Blogger JACIII June 01, 2018 8:30 AM  

Rampant email abuse is just a feature of poor management. Much like the "Corporate Memo" of decades past

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 01, 2018 8:30 AM  

I don't disagree, Stg58.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother June 01, 2018 8:42 AM  

Azure, my point is we have a lot of remote employees. We see each other once a month, maybe.

Blogger maniacprovost June 01, 2018 9:04 AM  

the way in which these idiot engineers were clearly more interesting in proving that they were smarter than Balwani than they were in the fact that he was the guy upon whom their paychecks, stock options, and careers all depended.

Engineers are accustomed to working under the direction of technically illiterate morons who constantly make wrong decisions. That's a fact of life in most organizations. Assuming their paychecks were big enough for the long hours, it sounds like they did the right things.

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelpia June 01, 2018 9:11 AM  

This railing against email on this comment thread is ridiculous -- don't fall for the McCluhan "medium is the message" bullshit.

The problem with email is the low communication skill level of people who are writing it. They don't get to the point, they bury the lede, they don't know how to craft a clear English sentence.

In other words, they don't THINK, and assume that speed is productivity. I see it everywhere.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 01, 2018 9:13 AM  

I was arguing FOR e-mail. You can't see people's faces over the phone either, and phones are undeniably useful.

Blogger pyrrhus June 01, 2018 9:27 AM  

"there's a lot of white engineers whose default position is "Me a lot smarterer than them idiots in sales and management and customer decision makers who make more money than me"

Please. HR makes more than engineers all the time. Just because someone makes more money doesn't mean they should.

Indeed, my experience with major corporations is that the highest salaried people are not only useless, but dangerous...

Blogger szopen June 01, 2018 9:31 AM  

From my experience with engineers, they worship competent people and cannot force themselves to respect idiots even if their lifes would depend on that.

Blogger pyrrhus June 01, 2018 9:33 AM  

But Theranos was an obvious scam, based on a scientific premise known to be false. Several exposes of it appeared before the final demise....

Blogger James Dixon June 01, 2018 9:38 AM  

> ...and in that regard best-case scenario Trump is little more than a muscle relaxant.

Don't be too sure. Trump has said multiple times now that he will never sign another omnibus funding bill. Since that's all Congress seems to be able to produce, thing will get very interesting come September.

Blogger Paul M June 01, 2018 9:46 AM  

"these idiot engineers were clearly more interesting in proving that they were smarter than Balwani than they were in the fact that he was the guy upon whom their paychecks, stock options, and careers all depended"

What else were they supposed to be doing? The game is rigged - you can be as smart as you like, but money is printed by the banks and flows down to people with the right connections. Holmes didn't get a billion bucks by doing blood tests, she got a billion bucks because her friends and relatives printed it for her.

Blogger Avalanche June 01, 2018 9:49 AM  

"And yet...you can't buy a simple blood test on your own!"

And yet, this is a legitimate huge problem! (In NY, you cannot order blood tests on your own, period! Legally denied!) She/they were fraudsters, but the need is real and great -- but as Scott Adams puts it, this is a psychological problem: not letting "laypeople" (and, granting: MPAI!) get their own medical info (most don't want it, although that most is slowly going down in numbers) is a protectionist thing; and hangover from the doctor is god, and "you're too stupid to understand, just do what I say!"

(Great book on this: Undoctored: Why Health Care Has Failed You and How You Can Become Smarter Than Your Doctor by William Davis (of WheatBelly fame). He tends to be a bit bombastic and over the top - but his info is almost always sound.

Also: Tom Naughton "Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds" https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=KzPnnDDCIjo (44 min.)(I believe this talk was based on his 'testimony' before Congress(ional aids on a task force) about why "people" are no longer listening to and doing what their told by their doctors...)

Blogger Laramie Hirsch June 01, 2018 9:51 AM  

VD: The amusing thing, of course, is the way in which these idiot engineers were clearly more interesting in proving that they were smarter than Balwani than they were in the fact that he was the guy upon whom their paychecks, stock options, and careers all depended.

Vox, I'm very interested to know what you think workers should do when working with out-of-touch incompetent bosses. MORE THAN THAT, what ought workers do under an abusive bully boss?

Blogger Laramie Hirsch June 01, 2018 9:57 AM  

(Also, what is your opinion of anti-bullying laws in the workplace? Workplace abuse is a big problem, here in the medical field.)

Blogger Michael Maier June 01, 2018 10:00 AM  

PLUS Theranos is "her" + "Thanos".... something to think about.

Blogger Nate June 01, 2018 10:04 AM  

This is like the inverse of Mark Cubans story about taking his company public. He spent months drilling on all the technical stuff preparing for the media questions.. And then when the day came no one actually asked him anything about what they actually do.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother June 01, 2018 10:07 AM  

Leave

Blogger freddie_mac June 01, 2018 10:16 AM  

@50 Laramie Hirsch
MORE THAN THAT, what ought workers do under an abusive bully boss?

Start looking for the exit door, and fast. If you can, hang on until you've got another position lined up; if you can't, then take the hit and get out.

Blogger RobertT June 01, 2018 10:59 AM  

This stuff is easier to pull off when you build silos. Transparency kills it. This if the first time I got a glimpse of Theranos' culture. It sounds like people were put into old fashioned offices and spoon fed what Holmes wanted them to think. It would be interesting to see studies comparing Theranos with Madoff. Both would have died earlier with transparency at work. It's very hard to run a business w/o a certain amount of transparency.

Blogger James Dixon June 01, 2018 11:02 AM  

> Vox, I'm very interested to know what you think workers should do when working with out-of-touch incompetent bosses.

Leave if you can. Try to wait it out if you can't.

> MORE THAN THAT, what ought workers do under an abusive bully boss?

How abusive? In the worst case (physical abuse), make an example of him on the way out the door. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzr4nA1thsQ

Blogger Laramie Hirsch June 01, 2018 11:10 AM  

@57 "Leave if you can"

Ah, but what if you can't leave? For example, what if you're trapped because your manager has ruined your professional reputation regionally?

(Still wanna know what Vox would say)

Blogger Jack Amok June 01, 2018 11:30 AM  

... and now they're all talking about how they always knew, as if that will salvage their careers, admitting that they knowingly worked for liars, fraudsters, charlatans and fools.

This reminds me a bit of Enron. There was a woman, former employee, who filed suit against the company for losses in her 401k which she had heavily weighted towards Enron stock. She testified (forget if it was in court or a deposition) about how when the execs were bringing investors through, they would have her and other employees sit in a room pretending to be frantically answering phones taking orders. This was her proof that the execs were defrauding investors, which she was via her 401k. Her own participation in the fraud conveniently overlooked...


Blogger Jack Amok June 01, 2018 11:33 AM  

Ah, but what if you can't leave? For example, what if you're trapped because your manager has ruined your professional reputation regionally?


Oh, well, in that case, stick around and publicly talk about how great your boss is and how many awards he should win. Then, when you're in your 40's and no longer attractive enough to get good roles, start a hashtag campaign describing how horrible and depraved he is.

Or, y'know, get out before it gets even worse. Your choice.

Blogger VD June 01, 2018 11:41 AM  

Ah, but what if you can't leave? For example, what if you're trapped because your manager has ruined your professional reputation regionally?

You can ALWAYS leave. Why would you ever stay in that situation?

Blogger Servant June 01, 2018 11:51 AM  

Really hard on the engineers in the comments section.

You act as if they had a choice. What are they going to do leave? What can they say? Yeah the newer better feminine Steve Jobs is a lying charlatan? I just needed more family time? I was looking for better opportunities?

Nope grin and bear it and hope the incestuous industry takes care of you because omuerta (since the industry overall knew all along) and go the next techno scam.

Y'all act like the tech industry is any less criminal or mobbish than Hollywood.

Blogger maniacprovost June 01, 2018 11:55 AM  

Why is everyone saying you should leave an incompetent idiot boss? Who cares? If your company wants to go bankrupt trying to violate the laws of physics, that's up to the elite prep school grads with 7 figure salaries. The only thing that matters is how much you get paid, with a smidgen of how good your job prepares you to make more money in the future.

You can work for an idiot, or you can start your own business and be the idiot.

By all means, if you find a competent leader somewhere, go there. But reactively fleeing from incompetence will statistically just land you in a new silo of incompetence.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother June 01, 2018 12:06 PM  

If you are currently employed, stay as long as it takes to get a new job. You aren't starving, so you have enough motivation to find a new job while you have a full stomach go for it.

Blogger English Tom June 01, 2018 12:11 PM  

Re: an abusive bullying boss.

You need to covertly record abusive interactions. You also need to catalogue these interactions noting dates/time/what happened/who was present/etc.

You then have the ammunition for a lawsuit.

Blogger English Tom June 01, 2018 12:18 PM  

Re: abusive bullying boss.

It might be best not to mention you are recording your boss to any co workers in case they are suffering from corporate Stockholm Syndrome and spill the beans to the boss.

Blogger Jack Amok June 01, 2018 12:29 PM  

I found the John Brandon piece at Inc to be idiotic and self serving, an interesting example of someone trying to retcon his wisdom with the mea culpa equivalent of a humblebrag. "Oh, I knew it was a scam the moment I heard it, but was just so smitten with the kitten..."

As Avalanche pointed out, all the problems Holmes talked about were and are real problems. The medical testing situation in the US is a world-class joke. Holmes was (properly) stating the business case for her, ahem, transformative technology. The question of whether the tech itself was real or fraudulent is a separate matter and cannot be evaluated from the business case.

Especially by someone who writes about LeBron James quotes for a website. Sheesh, if you're looking for a good tell about whether an exec is competent or not, seeing a copy of Wired or Inc on their office coffee table is probably a good sign they are dolts.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd June 01, 2018 12:32 PM  

maniacprovost wrote:Who cares? If your company wants to go bankrupt trying to violate the laws of physics, that's up to the elite prep school grads with 7 figure salaries. The only thing that matters is how much you get paid, with a smidgen of how good your job prepares you to make more money in the future.

You don't want to risk going down with the ship. As soon as you see trouble ahead, start looking for your next berth.

Stg58/Animal Mother wrote:If you are currently employed, stay as long as it takes to get a new job.

This. Stay only as long as it takes to get something better, or at least something not so close to failure.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash June 01, 2018 12:47 PM  

If your boss is an idiot, no big deal, most bosses are idiots. Bosses are people, and most people are idiots.

If the company is doomed, find another job. With sufficient notice, its not that hard. Nobody is really bothered by a two-year stint on your resume.

If the company is a fraud, get out. Get out immediately, reporting to regulators if appropriate. Dont play one-upmanship games, don't milk it for the money, just get out. Theranos experience will be a disqualifier for years.

Blogger great_o'rety June 01, 2018 1:01 PM  

Balwani. One has to wonder if there's some connection https://www.diki.pl/slownik-angielskiego?q=Bałwan

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother June 01, 2018 1:03 PM  

Snidely,

I agree. If it's fraud, run. The longer you stay, the more likely you'll be an accessory.

"What did you know, and when did you know it?"

Blogger kurt9 June 01, 2018 1:10 PM  

I agree with everything said here about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

Blogger "AlFin" still stands by Jordan Peterson:

https://alfinnextlevel.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/jordan-peterson-is-still-evolving/

Blogger Laramie Hirsch June 01, 2018 1:19 PM  

VD: You can ALWAYS leave. Why would you ever stay in that situation?

Thanks for your reply.

Speaking hypothetically, of course, let's just say a man in a single-income homeschooling household with no extended family support--such a working man might be cornered in this kind of circumstance. Particularly if the medical institution employing him was monopolizing the region, buying up smaller clinics and hospitals.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother June 01, 2018 1:24 PM  

Laramie,

You're currently an end user. Look into vendors, suppliers, scientific instrument manufacturers, biological products and services for employment.

Blogger Gospace June 01, 2018 2:57 PM  

32. Stg58/Animal Mother June 01, 2018 8:16 AM

Example 1: Service department manager at Canadian office on the phone with refinery engineers, discussing the fate of a 20 year old piece of equipment that is five years past its lifespan. He recommends fixing it instead of buying a new one. 130,000.00 sale evaporates. This was my fault due to inexperience. Now I would have called him previously to prepare, coach, etc.


The boilers where I work are currently 10 years past their projected lifespan. Properly maintained equipment can last a lot longer than expected lifespan. A capable operator knows when the equipment is actually going bad.

Had a "diesel expert" talk a previous employer into installing a new starter motor on the diesel generator used to power the facility in case of power failure because it was 20 years old. There's no MTBF for starter motors. Failure is unpredictable. Against my advice, it was changed out. Second time it activated- it stripped all the teeth off the starting gear as it failed.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother June 01, 2018 3:08 PM  

Gospace,

This equipment was not properly maintained. It was hanging on by a thread, and a couple years from parts obsolescence.

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelpia June 01, 2018 3:31 PM  

VD wrote:Ah, but what if you can't leave? For example, what if you're trapped because your manager has ruined your professional reputation regionally?

You can ALWAYS leave. Why would you ever stay in that situation?


As a wise boss of mine once told me, "You are always expendable, but you are also always marketable."

Only a very few things are career killers. A bad mouthing previous boss is not one of them.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash June 01, 2018 3:37 PM  

@Laramie,
You can move sideways. Which was what you were going to have to do to move up anyway. Staying long-term with an employer that doesn't respect you is a bad strategy anyway.

Blogger Ariadne Umbrella June 01, 2018 6:25 PM  

she was building a religion? A blood taking religion of science and what? there's a sci-fi novel in there, somewhere.

Blogger AnvilTiger June 01, 2018 6:31 PM  

Steve wrote:
a surefire way to get Balwani off his back: answer his emails with a reply longer than 500 words.

Works in most organisations, even the legit ones. It's not a question of patience, execs simply don't have the time to read long, spergy walls of text, not if they want to also catch most of their phone calls, IM's, conf calls and face to face meetings.


What exec cannot read 500 words per minute? So it takes 1 minute to read a 500 word email and they don't have time for that? No.

What I have observed in corporate world is this: (1) people who avoid email communication usually do so to avoid a documentation trail that will provide evidence of their statements, and (2) people who actually just scan text for trigger words rather than being able to understand concepts.

Blogger dvdivx June 01, 2018 7:15 PM  

You could have just shortened the whole thing down to the boss was from India who had worthless credentials and scammed his way into leadership. Later he hired other Indians (not native Americans) who goldbricked. Sums up every company with Indians in it. Only thing that shocks me is why they aren't sued for their obvious biased hiring patterns of only hiring fellow caste members.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother June 01, 2018 7:34 PM  

AnvilTiger,

That's exactly why email is important. Documentation trail.

Blogger tz June 01, 2018 8:22 PM  

Also note both sides were Indians.
It hit me that most of the post was the correct reaction in a low Time Pref, High Trust society, but HTP/LT societies exist. They just deal with things differently.

If you fired every nibbler on your team in China, you would have no employees. In my area, if you had a few, if you fired the most obvious example it would simply stop (and maybe one or two would leave).

That is the true problem with multiculturalism - that we refuse to reduce things to the least common denominator where we can have cheaters, leakers, and incompetents at every level and pretend it is being run like IBM under Thomas Watson.

Blogger Jack Amok June 01, 2018 11:19 PM  

If the company is a fraud, get out. Get out immediately, reporting to regulators if appropriate

Absolutely. Not only will the eventual discovery of the fraud look bad on your resume, if your bosses are willing to scam customers and investors, they're willing to scam you too.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd June 01, 2018 11:27 PM  

tz wrote:It hit me that most of the post was the correct reaction in a low Time Pref, High Trust society, but HTP/LT societies exist. They just deal with things differently.

Low time preference, high trust was the America of yore. American today is far closer to HTP/LT, as is most of the world outside of Northern Europe.

tz wrote:If you fired every nibbler on your team in China, you would have no employees.

What in the world is a nibbler? An employee who is always snacking?

Blogger Azure Amaranthine June 01, 2018 11:42 PM  

" An employee who is always snacking?"

Try cheating/fudging/shortcutting/embezzling/stealing.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd June 02, 2018 12:05 AM  

Azure Amaranthine wrote:" An employee who is always snacking?"

Try cheating/fudging/shortcutting/embezzling/stealing.


Ah. Hard to avoid in China, hard to find here. But, Diversity is Our Strength, and we have been importing nibblers at an astounding rate for decades. I'm sure we will catch up with China soon.

Blogger Iamblichus June 02, 2018 10:33 AM  

the turtleneck was a dead giveaway

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