Is Leading by Example Passé?

This is another of those situations where I don’t know whether I’m just being an old fogey engineer (with poor memory of my engineering youth) or whether the new breed really are as clueless as they seem. I do know that I’m not alone in my opinion.

We have some three hundred bright young interns in our organization and maybe ten wandering around the office in their short sleeves, flip-flops (the girls), work boots or sneakers (the boys), and seemingly unaware of the tie and suit clad professionals around them.

Yeah, I know, they weren’t hired for their looks. But part of their job is to represent the very large corporation or the government. And as pragmatic as some of our management is about dress, first impressions do still count and for the younger engineer who has yet to build a good reputation, it is best to make that first impression a good one.

I guess I shouldn’t just pick on the younger generation. One of our own actually went to an interview for a promotion wearing an old sweater, no tie, and old pants. The rating official took this to mean that the guy didn’t give a shit. He didn’t get the job.

So what is going on? Do these people just not give a shit? Are they just oblivious to the obvious standards being displayed all around them? Or do they just think it doesn’t apply to them?

I don’t have the answer, but I do have a bit of advice for these people. If you want to be an unprofessional slob, just make sure you’re a first class engineer first. That will buy you some rights to wander around like a hungover frat boy.

Oh, and if a senior engineer or supervisor jokes about you not wearing a tie, he isn’t joking.



A few years ago my organization went through the biennial mission statement slash vision statement bullshit and aside from the obligatory EEO and value the employee verbiage there was one good line: Tell the truth.

This became, for a while, the top priority for our engineering organization. It was, and still is, a fine statement to put on top of your list. Without that, everything is in question and should be.

So why haven’t I seen it around lately? Could it be that the current holder of that office finds the truth just too much trouble? Or is it just that the engineers like telling the truth, the whole truth, and nevermind the spin or politically correct words.

Is it okay to be honest and blunt or should engineers learn the art of rhetoric? Tell me what you think.