Passion is Free?

by Jinryu

So, regarding the situation that I wrote about a few posts ago, the day after I got into the showdown with [Manny] the manger (in previous posts spelled Many, but changed because it’s a bit confusing with the word describing quantitiy), it seems that she switched tactics.

Two things stand out about her actions the day after our public argument. It’s hard to decide which of these two things is actually the more out of character move.

The first is that she announced that she’s going to be hiring a new part timer for desk duties. Manny has been fighting clerical attempts to request backup for a long time. Apparently, before I was hired, she didn’t want to look at hiring anyone for months even though [Chere] and [Mickey] were doing the work of 3 coordinators. Now that I’ve been here for a bit over a year, we’re at 3 coordinators for 3 positions, but the problem is that the OR is gradually descending into hell in terms of policies– administrative situations are becoming more complicated than they were a year ago, and whenever one of us the three of us calls in sick or goes on vacation, we get backlogged.

I say that her sudden decision to hire help is out of character because Manny has held out against calls for reinforcement for over a year: so why would she change her mind now? It’s probably worth noting that at our hospital network, managers are given a “performance bonus” at the end of each year for keeping their budget belts on the tight notches.

Secondly, the day after our argument at the desk, she thanked me for my hard work, saying that she went over the numbers and saw a huge jump from the day before. Oftentimes, she won’t even say hello when she passes you in the hallway, so I’m rather skeptical of the sincerity of her tanks.

Call me jaded if you want. It is true that a lot of people say thanks more out of habit than out of sincerity; it’s a politeness. But I enjoy people who are polite. The ones who you have to watch out for are those who are selectively polite. As the saying goes, sharks smile with their teeth, but…

Maybe a bit of context helps. I think these recent changes are simply because the [Transition Management Team] ([TMT]) is still buzzing about. TMT is the the taskforce that’s been formed to handle the transition from Montreal’s several MUHC hospitals to the one “MegaHospital” set to be finished in a few years. The TMT, like any outside consultant agency brought int to analyze process, has a number of different effects on the people of a unit.

On one hand, most of us at the hospital are unionized– so our jobs aren’t going to be replaced so we don’t have that sort of fear of consultants that other types of companies might have. However,consultants means change in policies. Political tides, determined by the interactions of people who either work at desks or who specialize in a particular field, dictate how policies will change.

It’s a shakedown. In a good way, pressure is put on management to come up with policies that better suit efficient function of the unit. However, there are several ways to improve efficiency, and not every person in management agrees as to how this can be accomplished.

A common tactic for Manny to try and get me to do work for her, for example, is to attempt bullying. The day before the promise of more manpower the thank you, you’ll recall Manny cornered me at front desk in front of my peers we got into an argument. I deffended my point of view very sternly with her. If you remember Will Ferrel’s line from “The Other Guys,” at some point Mark Wallberg starts verbally accosting him– and Ferrel shuts him down, by just shooting holes in all his logic. “That didn’t go the way you thought it would, did it!” he says afterwards. It’s the parable of the tigers and the salmon.

Well, Manny’s discussion with me didn’t go the way that she intended it to. Actually, I’m not sure what the hell she expected me to say. On previous occasions I already told her that the post-op reports were being done as fast as they could be done– so what good does it do to tell someone that they need to work faster?

Good management looks for realistic solutions. Pressuring someone to work harder when they’ve already told you on several occasions that they need more manpower, that the system doesn’t allow it, or that we’re already working at 100% capacaity… well, isn’t that like banging your head against a wall?

Actually, no. Because bad workplace relations tactics include bullying to get what you want. I’m sure you’ve seen it. You can get someont to work at more than 100% of their abilities, if you bully them. People will work faster, do unpaid overtime, put up with jobs that aren’t theirs, etc. That’s bad management… but oftentimes, bad managers get away with it, because workers are tricked into thinking that it’s their job to help beyond the call of their jobs.

It isn’t.

Especially in a hospital scenario, this conspiracy of exploitation goes all the way to the top. Everybody who works here fundamentally cares about children. If you work here just for the money, you’ll have an impossible time of it. You will not be able to find some way to live with working here– because there isn’t that added value to your salary that tells you “you’re working for a right cause.”

However– working for a right cause isn’t currency. Nobody at this hospital is paid to love kids, or to care. We are, technically, paid to render a service.

I am not suggesting that people shouldn’t care– what I am saying though is that management at any level has no right to assume that the nature of the work compensates for a lack of payment. If you are paid X to produce Y amount of work, then that’s what you should do. An employee should not produce Y + 10% without X +10%. An employee should not produce Y + 10% and make up that difference with the warm and fuzzy feelings that they get from doing the right thing. That extra 10% of money? It doesn’t go to the kids– it stays in your manager’s pocket.

When I say that healthcare has a culture of exploitation, I think people don’t realize this because most people think in terms of doctors, as the final product. Sure, successful doctors make good money– but even among their ranks, how much unpaid overtime does a resident do? How much of their personal life are they expected to forgo for the sake of just “one more thing for the day?” The culture of exploitation is one an interesting one, because of two seemingly opposite ideals:
The first is that finding work that you find meaningful and are passionate about is important.
The second is that professionals are defined by their ability to be paid for what work they do.

Obviously, passion is theoretically unlimited– but the amount of pay that you will compensated with for that passion isn’t.

If you’re at a job that has conditions optimal enough that you’re simply secure, that’s fine– pour in as much passion as you want!

But if you’re fighting for basic respect? If you have to double check every pay cheque? If you are taking on more responsibilities than you were hired for? If you’re doing other people’s work? As professionals– you are hired to do a job, and they hired you perhaps over others because they thought you were passionate.

Before the workplace deserves your passion though, it needs to respect your basic professional needs.

Update: Two weeks later
I still don’t see or hear any word of extra people being hired.

Well, I hope that the boss makes good on her word– as someone who is a part timer on availability (yes, even though I work the hours of about 6 days per week most of the time) I could leave pretty much whenver I want. Two weeks notice I guess? Now that law school is on the map too, the department’s time is running short.