How a kind man says “no”.

“Empathy” is the word, not “sympathy”. 😉


Life consists of stories. Science is part of life. Don’t deny that. Enjoy it. 🙂


“No, Sir. Your team has done fantastic work.” I said. “And I’m here because I’d like to know how—”

“How would you know that?”

“You set me to take care of them while you were busy with the Australian project, Sir. I have gotten to know them well, and I assure you…”

It struck me that he wasn’t interrupting me. He even seemed to listen there for a second. Then, he turned to the window and started looking out over the city, breathing like the actor-equivalent of a penny-novel.

“I see. You know…I have to be honest, I’m not sure whether we are all that good or whether it isn’t just a quality of our product that makes it seemingly sell itself. Rocket science delivers captivating experiences after all by simply being what it is! Things go boom!”

I found myself happy to realize that he had not noticed the grimace I was making at the word “we”. By the time he faced me again, it had all but gone.

“…it’s probably just ‘in order’ that we do have some turnover now.” he said. “Only to be expected when going from start-up to a more established entity.”

Yeah, but probably not that much! I thought.

“A certain amount of turnover is normal in such a process, yes.” I said.

“The question then becomes what to do about it. Proper guidelines, I think, in the form of procedures…”

Make a box into which none fit.

“…is certainly the way other companies like ours go about things.”

Like ours?” Who would these other companies be? Who else sells «enthusiasm about space science»? It’s something schools should be doing, but can’t anymore.

“Probably.” I said.

Besides, we have always set us apart exactly by realizing our uniqueness and not doing it like others.

“Still, if you allow me to say it, Sir, there seems to be rather more turnover than one would expect.”

“I don’t know what you would expect, but I think it’s quite normal.”

And I don’t know what you expected, acting as you do.

“Well, Sir, it seems like it’s more or less us two now. How do you propose going about getting things done?”

“We will have to hang in there. You know what? Funny that you should be the one still standing here with me. I would not have expected that.”


“No, Sir, and about that, Sir, please accept my resignation.”

“Wait! What?” he said.

“I am sorry, Sir. I can live with a comprehensive set of procedures, and have done so for the last seven years of working here, but when selling a service which is complex to market, there has to be a certain amount of freedom awarded to the unique employee and her or his story, particularly and especially when establishing ourselves at a different level.


“I have always appreciated the inherent learning in working in a startup, and in this field no less. It taught me that the patience, tenacity, and way of thinking of a scientist does have its use in the “real world” – whatever that really is. In fact, I now believe that I can do or learn to do pretty much everything a manager such as you can throw at me. Your team, no less, has taught me that over the last couple of years. They have “hung in there” for much longer than the company had any right to believe they would. For this experience I will be grateful for the rest of my life.”

“Thank you…”

“That said, they also had any right to expect more than simply to have to “hang in there”. I overheard you stress the replaceability of every employee, even yourself, on many occasions. With all due respect, Sir, please do replace me.”


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