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Marshall M. Kirkman,

The Science of Railways:
Railway Organization

Excerpts from a Digital Text  at Google Books.

This excerpt describes the interpersonal behavior that Kirkman advocated for railroad employees in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.  It makes a useful comparison with our current expectations for professionalism (as in this publication from Hanover's Career Center, for instance).

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"The Railway Army"

The force that operates a railway is like an army. It is methodically organized and drilled. It has its commanders, its rank and file; its officers, sub-officers and privates. Its action is, however, peaceful and conciliatory. It strives at all times to preserve amicable relations with everyone.

The officers and employes of railroads are trained to obey in all matters relating to their business. In other things they are free. It is necessary that they should be obedient. The cooperation of a multitude cannot otherwise be secured.

Insubordination among railway men is as great an offense as insubordination in an army. A country thus cursed is in as great danger as if its soldiers were traitorous. In the operations of railroads, the interest of the owner in the employe must be constant, intelligent and marked; upon the part of the employe, loyalty to the property must be sturdy, unswerving and apparent; the interests of the two are identical, and it follows that differences between them must in every case be equitably solved if patiently borne. . . .

All who enter the service of railroads do so on a perfect equality. They are at best merely experimental at first. But here equality ends. The energetic, capable, faithful and ambitious at once forge to the front. They do not need anyone to assist or favor them. . . . The natural law of selection operates in the railway service as it does everywhere else. It arranges and classifies the force and, sooner or later, assigns every person to his appropriate sphere of duty. . . .

The interests of corporations require that officers should treat their subordinates justly and impartially; should treasure their interests as their own; should not expect too much; should distinguish, kindly and impartially, between those who wish to serve their employer faithfully and well and those who are indifferent or disregardful; should remember that the arbitrary power they exercise is delegated to them in the interests of the corporation and must never be wielded except to advance its affairs. Many serious complications that have arisen between employes and corporations have grown out of a disregard of these simple and self-evident truths. Men not skilled in governing are prone to act hastily; to state their ultimatum without considering its fairness or practicability. On the other hand, many embarrassing situations have been tided over by the tact and politic action of those in charge.

Men in every station of life possess the same general characteristics. They expect and appreciate courteous and kindly treatment, without reference to their environment. The most exacting and unreasonable respond quickly, or at least ultimately, to wise and judicious management.

The affairs of corporations require diplomatic action. Frankness and patience must mark the intercourse between officers and employes. . . . Men generally believe what they do to be right. They are, as a rule, conscientious. They may be wrong, their action may be unjust and indefensible, but they are not conscious of it. They are perfectly sincere. But if it can be made apparent that they are in the wrong, they will acquiesce. A few obdurate and unreasonable men may persist, but the bulk will yield. Not immediately, perhaps, but ultimately. The policy to adopt, therefore, in such cases, is one of kindness and diplomatic reserve. Nothing is to be gained by acting impetuously or with arbitrary brusqueness. Men are not to be controlled in that way, or, if controlled, will resent it afterward, so that it is oftentimes more disadvantageous to over-ride their will in such a way than to yield to it. Cheerfulness, not discontent, must follow acquiescence. . . .

Subordination is a cardinal principle of organized labor -- subordination to the employer, subordination to each other, according to rank and natural precedence. . . . All men, however, are entitled to justice and humane treatment.

The discipline of corporate forces is as absolute as that of a man-of-war. Obedience to superior authority is unqualified. It is, however, the privilege and duty of every subordinate in emergencies, when an order is given, to make such suggestions as the circumstances of the case demand. Here his responsibility ends, except in criminal cases.

An order, once given, must be obeyed. Absolutism, such as this, involves grave responsibilities. It presupposes skill, accurate knowledge and appreciation. . . .

The obligations of officers and employes require to be carefully studied and conscientiously observed; a proper observance of the duty they owe to their employer, the public, and to each other, will tax to the utmost their moral and intellectual strength.

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