This is what often happens at my office

Below is exactly what happened yesterday, 6/26/2014, at 10:13 AM. Another colleague of mine wrote to my boss about me having a problem… when in fact she and I don’t even work at the same office and when she knows nothing about my work and how I work. For some unspeakable reason, she just cannot stop stirring up trouble like saying something bad about me behind my back to my boss.

I shouldn’t be bothered by her trouble-making act. Yet, to say I am not upset is a total lie. The day was at least partially blackened out by this. She did this thing to me more than once. I screamed out inside me: Why can’t you leave me alone? Why do you hate me so much that you have to stir up trouble like this? I have no answer. A colleague of mine said some people are addicted to sabotage acts like this. I am just unfortunate to become her target.

In medical documentation, there is a saying, “If it’s not documented, it’s not happened.” I share it here so that I can put it behind me and focus on what is important to me.

From: (my boss)
Sent: Thursday, June 26, 2014 10:13 AM
To: (monitor)
Cc: VF, another of my colleagues and me
Subject: something very important
Importance: High

(Monitor’s name),

Thank you for your communication with my research team.

(My boss)

—–Original Message—–
From: VF (Yes, that’s the name of the person who does things like this, God knows how many times a day)
Sent: Thursday, June 26, 2014 10:00 AM
To: (my boss)
Subject: something very important

(my boss),

I believe there is a problem with how (MY NAME here) is handling the issue noted below. I’m not sure what she is communicating regarding cost of mailing [NOTE: it is none of your business to know what I communicate with others] or ….

Thought you should know.


Put your distractions in another room when you are serious with your work

My daughter came back on 5/9, last Friday evening. Her connection flight from Chicago back to KS was delayed for nearly 4 hours.

We went to upgrade her phone the next day, Saturday morning. She got an iphone5s, the latest model on the market. After we got back home, I went to Walmart to get a protective case for her phone. When I came back, I saw my daughter working on her project. I asked her, “Where’s your phone? I got this case for it.” She said it was in another room. Her brother told her to put any distraction in another room so that she could concentrate better.

Try to inject meaning into our work experience

Since we spend over one-third of our weekday at our workplace, to most of us, work has become an inseparable part of our experience. As with all other experiences, we try to find and inject meaning into what we engage, to make sense of what we have to do everyday.

Here’s the list of meaning/purpose that I can think of as why we go to work everyday.
(1) For a paycheck
(2) To associate with people
(3) To build network
(4) To seek opportunities
(5) To enhance our skill-set
(6) To prepare for the next big thing
(7) Best of all, having fun doing what one does at work.

I believe the great majority of people come to the office for a paycheck. Very few people come with their own personal agenda, that is, seeking for whatever they can potentially gain from this experience, often intangible gain. Only these tiny minority can rise above the ordinary.

For me, searching for meanings in what I am doing is the huge force motivating me every day. The real crisis is to find what you are doing meaningless.

When I have some bad experience at work, I think of my children

I keep some plants in my office and some origami paper. I turn to them when I am fed up with the human dramas around my office or with the hypocrisy around here.

These plants are so innocent and harmless that sometimes I’d like to spend the whole day playing with them. This is of course not possible as I have work to do and have to deal with people, no matter how much I dislike dealing with them.

Sometimes, when some unpleasant event crops up, I miss my children and the happy hours that I spent with them. Of course, the thought of them reminds me of my responsibility as a parent. I am sure they will be free from the kind of experience that I have to go through. At least I wish so.

When I have a second at office…

There are too much gossips going around here. It is so childish to indulge in this kind of stuffs around adults aged over half a century.

I have my earphone on just to insulate myself from this surrounding. Whenever I have a free second, I would spend it on two things: (1) improving my skills (2) exercise to keep fit.

This was written on 3/20. I was going to have an interview the next day, 3/21, hoping I could leave this rather unpleasant toxic work environment.

After a few round of interview…

One of the slogans that I set for myself for this year is –change 2014. That is, I was hoping the year 2014 will see some real change in my career. Actually I was determined to make some changes when I was preparing for my daughter’s college trip.

I did try sitting for a health IT certification exam last fall, but didn’t pass it. Since this year I have tried job transfer. After a few rounds of job interview and having entered the third month of the year, I still don’t have anything in hand.

Yesterday I went for an interview for an ETL developer position. I had some experience with ETL back in 2002. But with new technologies in recent years, I don’t think I am up to the task. I am not surprised if I don’t get the job.

When looking back, the only thing that greatly upsets me is the amount of time wasted on all these efforts. On the way back from the interview office, I was considering something else.

I will continue applying for other positions as I still want to try something else. But I will not waste time on preparing for the interview. Instead, I will set new agendas and follow them through.

Job application is something beyond my control. As the saying goes, “Man proposes, God disposes.”
So, why wasting time on something I cannot control. I will spend time on something that I can control and can see the positive result.

If our boss makes a mistake, should we point it out, privately?

If your boss makes a mistake, should you point it out in private? The answer is NO, not even in private, unless you have evidence that something illegal is going on. Here are the reasons.

(1) It is not part of your job description to point out your boss’ work mistake. Your job is to do your job well, not to watch how your boss does his/her job.

(2) Nobody asks your opinion. It’s a different story if your advice is sought for.

(3) Watch out the subtle difference between offering your advice in the name of work and showing off to your boss how smart you are. Your advice in the name of work could be perceived as a mere show-off, depending on whose ears your words go into.

(4) At work and at home, always keep in mind
–> nobody cares how smart you are (nobody but your mom, dad occasionally);
–> no normal person likes to be shown how stupid he/she is;
–> your boss is like all of us.

If, in case, you have a hard time suppressing the urge to show off your trophies, keep a book of high achievers on your desk. When you flip through their achievements, you will realize how insignificant yours are. And you should blush with shame for even thinking about it.

Finally I found someone I respect at work…

Yesterday, 2/3, while I was at our west clinic, I saw an infusion nurse, in her early 40s, at break room. I met her at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. Other people were on their devices, she was reading a thick book, which looked like a textbook. While chatting with her, I learned she is trying to get her master degree in nursing and later to become an NP. “Awesome! Go for it!” I said.

Immediately I felt a respect for her. It’s not easy to make me respect someone nowadays. Of course, I respect everybody as a human being. But there is more to that. There are many nurses around here, but this is the first time that I meet someone who is willing to make efforts to advance her career. Why not?

With two young girls and a full-time job, plus she is not young any more, she certainly will have a bumpy road ahead. I have no doubt she will make it.

The team is shrinking…and there is no stop to the decline

Three of the best colleagues of mine left our department last December. Two others left last month, one leaving for retirement, the other for another company.

During our last department meeting on 1/30/2014, when I saw these two outgoing colleagues, I said to myself “This is their last meeting with the company. I hope this will be my last one with them, too.” You could feel an easy feeling going around the meeting, too much discontent. I was sitting there reading my own stuffs, unwilling to waste time listening to these useless complaints.

I can’t believe the department is shrinking so rapidly–with only 9 people holding the team, one project manager, one manager, 7 scattering in the 5 clinics. Everybody knows the reasons behind the decline, even though nobody talks about it openly–my first-hand experience of true democracy.

Clean up the shoddy work of other people at my office

This is how I spent my lovely Friday morning (8/2). I received some DCFs for a 2005 trial. Let me put it this way, to say they are outrageous is an undeserved compliment. Ok, one of them goes like this:

“Item: Platelets = 95 10^3/mcl
Problem: corresponding LNR 050302 (eff.31JAN2004)
Comment: LAB: Platelet(08MAR2007) is outside the corresponding LNR 140 – 415 10^3/mcl and represents a violation of the inclusion/exclusion criteria. Please check & verify result, and provide comment.”

It certainly looks like a protocol violation. But why did it take 6 years for them to find it out?

Actions taken:
(1) Get the CRF binder and patient chart to confirm the platelet value done on 3/8/2007 is correct.
(2) Get the protocol, and read the inclusion/exclusion criteria to confirm value 95 is out of the accepted range for enrolment.
(3) Check if there was other CBC lab done during that period. Check physician order and lab reports. Yes, one was done on 3/1/2007, with acceptable platelet value.
(4) Search protocol to see if the 3/1/2007 lab is within the timeframe to meet screening requirements.
(5) Patient consent on 4/5/2007 and was registered on 4/23/2007. The 3/1/2007 lab is out of the window.
(6) Check to see if patient had any medical activities during that period. Found patient went to have a surgery in late March 2007.
(7) Call the hospital to see if patient had any labs done while at the hospital.
(8) Faxed a formal request form to the hospital, as I was told.
(9) Follow up with the hospital later and
(10) Have to constantly keep related persons updated
No ending yet. Wait for their response and go from there.

It would be an easy solution if I admitted and submitted a protocol violation, but a violation is a major offense which we try to avoid.

I was in a bad mood after going through these actions, as I don’t like wasting my time cleaning up the mess left by others years ago. I lament greatly the loss of my time over one simple idiotic mistake that other people made. There is no word that can satisfactorily describe what upset I was on that day.

Age still matters, even though you are not directly asked to reveal it

Here’s something funny with our company’s job application. We are never required to give out our date of birth, for fear of applicants’ filing age discrimination law suit.

Yet there is one field that you must complete, that is, year of high school graduation. You cannot submit the application without completing this field. As far as I can see, the year of high school graduation has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of job that I applied.

It might be a good thing to filter out not-young folks who are competing with the younger ones in this tight job market, especially in IT field. But it is really not fair to those thus excluded.

Another attempt for internal job transfer

Yesterday I went to IT department of my workplace in an attempt to transfer there. I felt hopeful on my way there, but less so on my way out.

During my last interview, the hiring manager and another lead team member spent almost an hour with me, giving me the impression that I would join their team, for real. But that didn’t happen.

This time the hiring manager ran out of questions before long and started asking me if I had any questions for her. So much interest in me! I thought if I didn’t have any question, she would show me the door in less than 20 minutes.

I would be telling a lie if I say I don’t feel down after that. Still, putting things in perspective, it might not be a bad thing, either way. Things always have two sides.

Office grievances, grapevine solution

The incident that I described in my last few postings is by no means an isolated one. In fact, I hear more grievances from my colleagues than I care to share.

During our March monthly department meeting, we invited a person from outside the company to hear our work-related grievances. One prerequisite to our free expression is to ask the manager to leave the meeting. Isn’t that interesting! As one colleague put, “I will be able to say what I want if she is present.”

That says a lot about democracy, freedom of speech, and all the lofty ideas thrown around in the air. In fact, everybody knows absolute freedom of speech is an illusion. Then, what can we do regarding the grievances that people might have?

I always have this idea–having a grapevine blog, an internal blog where people share anonymously their work experience with a healthy dose of decency. It can be checked and monitored by an outside inspector. It serves as a window for the management to know what is in peoples’s mind while working at their office.

Well, just a thought.

You cannot trust HR to work for you, especially with a large company, part III

I was upset and arguing back and forth, to no avail. Guess what, the same high rate was charged on my April paycheck. I contacted this HR person. She told me they would fix it and refund the extra charge on my next paycheck. Finally in May I did get the value low rate but no refund at all. Foeget it. I am tired of the whole thing. I hope I could put it behind me totally.

The cost of this event goes beyond the cost to me. Here’s the list of collateral damages of the event:

(1) It sucked my energy when I was arguing with HR.
(2) It cost me time when I had to contact here and there to resolve it. And of course, it cost me time to record the whole thing here in order to forget it.
(3) It creates a distrust of HR and other people. That benefit rep disappears totally after my last contact with him. How dependable that can be!
(4) The worst part is this bad memory and negativity associated with dealing with HR

I apologize if I have sounded negative. Too bad that’s one of those unpleasant experiences that I thought it beneficial to share here so that readers can learn something.

The final take-home message: when it comes to your interest, don’t trust anybody else. You have to be careful, be it bank, HR, or credit card or anybody other than you.

You cannot trust HR to work for you, especially with a large company, part II

The KU HR person told me I was a smoker because I did not complete a smoking history statement.

This is a big joke. I told her, “Number one, I have never smoked in my life. Number two, if this smoking statement was required to get the value rate, I am sure I have completed it because I would not risk paying a high rate by refusing to complete it. If I have not done it, it must be because I was not told to do so. Number three, if I have completed it, there is a possibility that they lost the form.”

The HR contact person, who was unkind, to say the least, told me that HR could not make mistakes. It was me who didn’t complete this form and caused this high rate. I could complete, signe on the smoke form and fax it to her now to get the value rate from now on, but they could not fix the past.

I don’t get it. Aren’t HR human beings? How can you be so certain HR people are error-free? Plus, who has more incentive to be careful and not making mistake? Of course, I have the incentive because it is detrimental to me if I make a mistake. I am not that stupid to deliberately hurt myself. On the other hand, HR has zero incentive to be diligent. It costs them nothing if they make mistakes.

Continue tomorrow…

You cannot trust HR to work for you, especially with a large company

I work for KU Cancer Center. There is one HR (human resources) controlling the whole KU employees. The HR office is as remote as stars in the sky or worse than that, at least you can see the star.

Toward the end of March, when I talked to a benefit representative, I realized I was charged a higher rate of medical insurance premium, like over $40 more than what I should pay per month. The rep promised me to investigate into the matter. Nothing came back after a few days. So I contacted him. He told me he contacted HR about it and was waiting to hear from HR.

He could wait but I couldn’t as next pay period was coming soon and another extra charge would be taken from my paycheck. So I called my insurance company, blue cross blue shield KC. I was told it was HR who determined the rate.

I spent nearly a day search for a HR contact person and finally got an answer.
Continue tomorrow…

One piece of the culture at workplace

During our last monthly meeting on 4/25, we talked about how to send secure emails to outside groups. This reminds me of one incident some years ago when I just started working at research section.

When I put patient’s name on the subject line in my email to a coworker, she forwarded my email to the manager who gave me a dress-down on protecting patient’s privacy, and much more, making it sound a severe break of law.

I don’t mind taking a lecture from the manager, but why couldn’t this coworker tell me directly? In fact, this is exactly the culture of my workplace, where talking behind your back is the norm. It went with all the other coworkers in my office at that time. Too much gossiping around.

Something I really want to forget.

Trying to be politically correct in public

We had our monthly meeting yesterday at another clinic, for that I need to drive eastbound instead of west. Once I followed my auto-pilot during one of these meetings and headed west instead of east. Of course, I ended up skipping that month’s meeting.

There was an interesting episode during this meeting. At some point when people complained about the other section of research, the manager said “On the note of political correctness, I have no comment on this.”

I kept thinking about this after the meeting as I know this manager did make comments on similar topic outside the meeting without the need to be politically correct.

Talk about freedom of speech and openness or fear of the openness and what you can say in private and cannot in public or at a meeting!

Nobody notices you unless you have done something extraordinary

On 4/3, my daughter needed to get to school at 7 AM for a long field trip. After I dropped her off there, I went to the office a little bit late. I was in the break room having my breakfast and seeing more people coming in at this time. I noticed that most people passed me by as if I were not there, except one doctor who knows me well. We chat when we have a chance.

I remember one doctor who left our clinic early this year. I knew she had a little girl. Before she left, I shared with her some of my writings on parenting. She read it and was full of praise and respect when she talked to me later. I could see a change of attitude in her. How strange it is or perhaps it should be this way.

The boring nature of our daily work tends to breed slight or brush-off or cold shoulder among the familiar faces, especially in this environment. Only your accomplishments can make people change their attitude.

A near-disaster accident on the way to work

Talk about stress when people go to work. Yesterday, 3/25/2013, I had a near-disaster accident as I drove to the office in the morning. It snowed the day before and the road was a bit slippery. As I exited, on the long Quivira exit ramp, my car slipped out of control at a high speed. I tried to steer the wheel to the opposite direction and slow down the speed at the same time. The car turned right and left wildly like an unmanageable wild horse. For some reason, after some desperate struggling, I finally got it under control, probably because the speed went down when the car went a bit upward or it slipped to a location which was not slippery.

It was totally scary and I was shaken from fear. It took me some time to calm down. In hindsight, I could ruin the car totally or even got myself seriously injured if the car had not stopped. Luckily, there was no car behind me as it was really early.

A lesson, which I hope I will never forget — avoiding taking highway or any high speed way, if the weather is bad or after a snow day. Most important thing: drive slowly.

Snow day, people layoff, cold and unfortunate

Last Thursday was a very unpleasant day for me. The snow came down thick and fast as the day went. Normally it takes me 10 minutes to get to the office, but I was on the road for over 30 minutes that day.

As snow accumulated, the clinic manager communicated to us that the clinic would close at noon and the employees could go home then. But if they did, they would have to use their vacation hours, which was ridiculous. I thought the company should reward those who braved the snow and made it to the office. Many employees were unhappy with the announcement.

That day I also learned the details about one colleague who was told to go home and never come back again. She has diabetes disease and is in the process of some treatment. She was let go because she fell asleep on the job. She is single, in her 50s, and not in good health. It is sad and dreadful when I think of her situation.

Two unpleasant things in one day. That’s enough.

An Interesting office interlude

On 1/30/2013, the boss who supervises the whole old entity wrote to us, “Reminder of the retirement reception for …, …, which will be held at … from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm tomorrow afternoon (1/31).”

I wrote to her the next morning, “Is it possible to have a part of the reception during lunch time? Some people start the day early here and will be out of the office by 4:30 PM, even though they would like to be part of the reception for ….”

This is the first time that I wrote to her since she replaced the old one. I think I represent a group of people whose office hours are between 7 and 3:30 PM or 7:30 and 4 PM.

I know the old boss always writes back, but I am not sure if this one will. This is an interesting interlude in an otherwise boring day. For the record, as I expected she never wrote back.

You cannot afford to get sick at work

On 1/25/2013, a Friday morning, I learned that one of my colleagues was let go by the HR because of her excessive sick leave days.

This colleague fell and broke her shoulder bone, which required some surgeries to fix the bones. I don’t know the details of her condition but I know she is single and has been worried about the medical bills and her job security.

I thought she needed not to worry as there must be some kind of law protecting people like her. “How can the company fire you when you are sick and specially need income to cover all the cost thus incurred?”

Well, by the end of the day, a company is not a charity place. I guess I was too naive. Still, the news made that Friday a really sad day for me when I think of the fact that people just cannot afford to be sick. When you are sick, the company multiplies your miseries by cutting off your income. That hurts especially if you are single and have no other income.

Work Observations and Self-Starter

Here are some of the observations at work. One young colleague, when the work seems overwhelmed, gets rude to others, freaking out easily and giving a leave-me-alone look to everyone around; when things slow down, that person fools away her time, engaging in endless social networking.

What’s wrong with this type of behavior? Number one, she cannot handle stress well. Number two, she is not a self-starter in that she doesn’t know how to make use of time to enrich herself when she is not busy.

Another one that I know, in her mid-20s, would not do anything when she is upset with something either at work or with a significant other. She says she is not in the mood to do anything.

When we come to the office everyday, we are supposed to leave behind any personal dramas and do what we are paid for. Other colleagues talk about this person. I won’t be surprised if she is told to leave the company.

Conscientiousness and diligence at your work are the reasonable expectation at all workplace. I wrote down my observations so that my children will know where I come from.

Looking ahead, without looking elsewhere

On 12/4, a colleague of mine asked me about my job application within the KU system. I told her I had given up trying. Yes, I gave up.

When I decided to get a large screen laptop, I made up my mind that I would not look elsewhere any more. Instead, I will take advantage of my current job.

There are at least three things about my current position that are very dear to me. Number one, medical insurance. Number two, not crazily busy and absolutely stress-free. I can always squeeze two third of my daily office hour on my stuff. Number three, it is only 10 minutes drive from my house.

As the year 2012 is winding down and as I have decided to reorient my direction, I am going to exploit more writing opportunities in the coming year. I hope by this time next year I have done something that makes me proud of myself.

If you want people to take you seriously, don’t have too many oversights

On  11/5/2012, one colleague of mine forwarded to me an email from a monitor regarding one of our studies, which itself is an annoying thing. On the email subject, he refers to one subject at our clinic while in the body of his email, he talks about a different subject not even located in our clinics. I wrote back to him asking him to clear up which subject he is talking about.

I said “By the way, our site number is 041. Appreciate it if you get the site correct before sending it.” I knew I was not being nice when I wrote this but I was pretty upset when some monitors throw upon us data discrepancies with their own glaring discrepancies in the email.

He returned with this “My apologies.  I was copying and pasting since I have several sites that needed SAE follow up.  Please forgive this oversight. It is subject …” I was going to ignore him without further wasting time on him.

But being a busy person as I am,  I sent him this “BTW, if you want people to take your email seriously and get back to you, it is better not to mess it up with this kind of oversight.” I know most people simply trash his email without even a look at the content. And of course, I will not forget to share this with my daughter.

When the CEO is leaving the company…

On 9/11, the second head of our company before merger made an announcement about the departure of the CEO of the company. I thought it was nicely written.

“Please join me in wishing …, Executive Director of Community Network Development, success in his new endeavor. … will be leaving the University of Kansas Hospital in the next few weeks for a new opportunity.

— was previously the Executive Director for the company for 12 years and was instrumental in the growth and advancement of our company as it built 5 community cancer centers as well as other cancer related programs.

— has served on numerous healthcare and cancer association boards both locally and nationally, educating others, as much as he was exploring for new programs and services that would position our physicians and staff to make the greatest impact on patients. His philosophy in evaluating the merit and value behind anything new has always been – ‘is it good for the patient?’

Time to move…

By next month, I will have worked at the clinic level for five years. Since early this year, I thought I should move to something else.

For one thing, I don’t see any room for improvement and further development if I keep staying here. I need some challenge to keep me going.

For another, I don’t like the hierarchical nature in the clinic. I am comfortably with more egalitarian work environment.

Hence, I decided to try getting into our IT department. I kept looking for any openings within our system. Right before I left for China, I sent my application for one opening in our IT department. I had the first round of interview on 5/30.

I was told that they just started giving interviews. In fact, I was the first one to be interviewed and they didn’t know how many they would interview. I didn’t feel good toward one of the guys. In fact, I had a feeling that it would not turn out right. Indeed, it didn’t. My daughter said, “Good. Now you can concentrate on your writing.” Big comfort!

“Everyone else looks after his own interests…”

On 4/30, we received an internal email from our director of operation. She has been with the practice for 10 years and is leaving for another company by the end of the month. It was so nice that she gave a month’s notice.

Well, it seems normal for people to jump from one position to another when there are some big changes in a company, especially when a merger of two companies inevitably creates duplicates and sooner or later the duplicates will be removed. Rather than waiting to be laid off, these people seek out their own different path first.

One colleague comment, “Well, everyone looks after his own interest.” True. Another asked “Who’s the next one?” Still, her departure came as a shock to me, as I used to see that person as the permanent fixture of the company. I think I am still very much the product of old culture.

Hiring a lawn mowing teenager

On 5/26, Saturday afternoon, when I searched for lawn mowing services in our area, I found one offered by a 17-year-old boy. I called for an estimate. He came over, surveyed the front and back yard, then asked how much I offered.

I told him I was thinking of asking my neighboring teenager boy for $50 because he has a tractor. He said, “The thing I don’t like tractor is it cannot go through area around trees. I mow and trim the yard well.” He asked for $65. I knew there was room for me to bargain it down.

We were talking outside and it was very hot that day. I thought of my own children and would hope other people would treat them generously if they were in his situation. He is the same age as my daughter. So I agreed to give him what he asked.

Yesterday, he came over and started working at 9:50 in the morning and ended at 11:50. I think he is happy with the check for his two hours yard work under the burning sun.

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