The Power and the Damage of Unknown Phobia

It happened on 12/1/2008, over two years ago. I just dug it out from my work journal. I thought it was an interesting event.

On that date, I wrote to a colleague, offering to work on the patients that she was working on. She told me “We will let you know!” I don’t know who “we” are as I only wrote to her. She has never written back to me, even though she needed my help on getting some data out. I have noticed that she has tried to avoid working with me, keeping an interestingly polite distance and appearance, for some unknown reason. Let’s call it unknown phobia.

I have never worked with this colleague before, yet she has heard some gossips about me and was reluctant to work with me out of some unaccountable phobia. By the end of the day, it is not me but those with phobia and with closed mind who will suffer as the result.

A Trick to Get Employees Involved in Survey

On the morning of 6/7, I was very busy after a SIV. When I opened my office mailbox, I saw an email from the president of our practice, sent from him to me directly regarding an employee engagement survey, as if he personally asked me to do the survey. I know there is a way of mass-distributing an email and then when it reaches the recipient, it looks like it was sent to you alone without disclosing other recipients. It has the effect of making you feel special when you receive an email directly from the president. However, since the president is over 60 years old, I wouldn’t flatter him with being so computer savvy as to know how to do this mass-distributing. So I thought he must have sent these email one by one to hundreds of employees within the practice just to make people feel special.

After chatting with one of my colleagues, I know better now. Of course, he did not do it himself. He could easily delegate the task to someone else without having to go through any of the trouble that I thought of. Still, I appreciate the way the email was sent to each of us. It makes me feel that I could not simply ignore it without putting some effort on his behalf. The trick works on this busy Monday morning, at least working on me. Something to think about!

Lack of Proper Enforcement of Meeting Etiquette

On 7/19/2010 we had a SIV at one of our clinics. It is one of those days when I feel displeased by some rude behavior. The meeting with our future monitor was made rather unpleasant to both the speaker and all of us because of one compulsive participant. She is compulsive in that she has to jump out barking out something, for whatever the speaker said. Even when she couldn’t think of anything to say, she paraphrased what the speaker just said to confirm her understanding. She whispered loudly with others when she was not interrupting the speaker.

It is unfortunate to all of us that she does not know that she should allow the speaker to finish his sentence before blurting out hers, no matter how useless her words are. She has never learned to raise her hand when she feels the urge to replace the speaker’s voice. She routinely interrupts speaker at will.

This rude meeting behavior openly shows disrespect for the speaker and shamelessly forces everybody in the meeting to focus attention on her instead of on the speaker.

A meeting is not supposed to be an arena for people to showcase themselves or to grab people’s attention or to emphasize how incompetent the speaker is.

The sad part is not that she fails to follow the standard meeting etiquette but she even feels jubilant and triumphant each time she thinks she beats out the speaker. Does it really take so much guts and maturity to behave like a real adult, instead of a three-year-old?

By the way, I wrote the above during the meeting.

My Experience with Time Warner Road Runner Service

We have been out of internet service since last weekend due to the broken modem. I contacted Time Warner about it and was told that a technician would come over today between 5 to 7 PM, the earliest possible date.

Since my daughter has piano lesson on Thursday at 5, I called yesterday to see if they could narrow the window to 6 to 7 PM.

First of all, it took me over 30 minutes to finally get hold of someone over the phone. The Time Warner guy told me he could not change the window. If I could not make it, he could get me some other day. That seemed to be the last straw. I had already waited for a few days and he still would not be flexible enough to accommodate me.

I told him I was going to close my account and look for other high speed internet services. He told me he would connect me to their customer service girl, who proved to be worse than I imagined.

She said, “You are free to go to other companies, but you will have to wait for several days no matter where you go. You can’t just get it whenever you want.” Though she yielded to my request a little bit and pushed back the window for today, her attitude was far from apologetic and friendly. In fact, her attitude was so unfriendly that I felt like having tasted something worse than anything you can imagine.

We have been Time Warner customer for many years. This is the first time their modem gave us trouble. Had I looked around for other companies this Monday instead of waiting and calling for a change of time, I could have avoided such an unpleasant encounter with Time Warner folks. Now I learn my lesson.

How to Avoid Ruining Your Work Reputation

There is an interesting article written by Liz Wolgemuth, On 4/29/2010, “How to Ruin Your Work Reputation Slowly” The article starts like this, “It isn’t hard to ruin your reputation online these days–blogging about your boss, Twittering about your customers, posting Facebook pictures that involve copious amounts of alcohol and otherwise inappropriate props.”

While we don’t have many chances to make major mistakes and total the job of ruining our reputation, we do face the possibilities of chipping away our professional image in the workplace, by behaving a little bit unprofessionally.

First line of breakdown: communications skills, written and oral ones, and the content of your communication, especially the sensitive area of email. The trick of a good communication is to get into the habit of using formal language and avoid any non-work related content. Another trick: email as less as possible.

Second line, your behavior in public or at meetings, another danger zone. Better qualities to display at the meeting are attentiveness and inquisitiveness. Interrupt your boss or embarrass the boss in a meeting will quickly earn you a bad reputation.

Third one, a good working relationships with your manager. This is a tricky one. The trick is not to openly nurturing a good relationship with your boss. Because you run the risk of ruining your relationships with coworkers. After all, you don’t want to be known as a boot-licker.

The Temptation and the Danger of Stupid Behavior in a Fun Crowd

During a conversation among some nurses on Monday 8/2/2010, I heard that they had a party last weekend and one of them got drunk. I heard that girl saying “Party was no fun without getting drunk.” Another asked if she drove after that. “No. Can’t put the two together,” she said.

I thought of another party in which one of my co-workers spit out a large quantity of stupid vulgar expressions, most horrifying to all present, which I believe she would rather keep to herself if she had not over-drunk at the party. Her stupidity at the party provides fertile food for gossips long after the party and of course embarrassment to her children at least. This behavior makes me think of sociological theories on crowd mentality and herd behavior.

For some people, it seems the larger the crowd, the crazier they become and the more they let loose of themselves. It reminds me of the behavior of a three-year-old who acts up and seems out of control when there are guests in the house. It is funny some adults never outgrow kindergarten behavior.

Don’t make a fool of yourself while having a good time. Remember losing control is no fun.

A Woman with an Extraordinary Ability

On 7/2, while my colleague and I were talking about one monitor from PRA, she told me of her experience with that company, specifically her unpleasant one with her boss there.

From the conversation I learned one trick of getting rid of an employee is to write up high expectations for his/her performance. If that employee fails to meet the high benchmark, fire that person. My colleague used to be a boss with a dozen employees under her. When her boss asked her to play this trick on two of her persons, she thought it unfair and refused to follow. As the result, her boss fired her.

Many people complained of her boss, a woman with an extraordinary controlling finesse, but nobody could do anything about her. Here’s what she did in order to get her way. She engaged in indecent relationships with nearly all the upper level management so that they were afraid that she might file sexual harassment lawsuit if they fired her.

Who says life is boring. This is nothing but boring if you happen to meet a boss like this one.

It Takes some Tactics to Ward off Troubles

This happend on the morning of 6/7/2010 when a monitor wrote to me about two patients under xyz’s care, “Hi …, These are for xyz’s subjects that were screen fails. I have asked her to make these calls, but they are still outstanding. Would you mind trying? Thanks …”

It is a touchy situation as I am fully aware of the fact that xyz is not easy to work with and will be mad if I do what the monitor has asked me to. So, I asked my colleague what she would do in this situation. She read the monitor’s email and said, “Forward the email to xyz and let her do it. That’s what I would do.”

Oh boy, this would be the last thing that I would do because xyz would be wondering why the monitor asked me regarding her patients instead of asking her directly, as if my arms were so long that I had reached into the depth of her domain of control. What was going on behind her back? Were we gossiping about her? she would bombard me with endless questions. This is like begging for trouble for both monitor and me. Do I need troubles? No.

At first I was thinking of writing to the monitor, explaining to her my dilemma. Then I thought it better not to commit it in writing. You never know what the monitor will do with my email when I mean for her own reading. So I picked up the phone. Luckily she was on the other side of the phone at the moment. I explained to her why it was not proper for me to get involved, which she understands perfectly, given her own experience with xyz. I suggested that she email xyz and cc our project manager and even our department manager. If this won’t work, she should call our manager. Always go one level up instead of going horizontally when you try to resolve some issues. She appreciates my suggestion greatly and did what I told her.

After that, I shared this experience with my daughter, hoping she could understand this simple fact – when working with difficult persons, it takes some tactics to ward off troubles and enjoy happy endings.

Healthcare Providers: Myth and Reality

Random thought on healthcare professionals.

A couple of people have asked me at different moments about people at healthcare. I have worked at the clinic level, though not a clinic person, thus have heard and witnessed the attitude of doctors and nurses. I must admit that my previous expectation is better than reality. Most likely, I have been unrealistic in my expectation.

Money is often the ultimate motive behind our daily activities, regardless where we work. Make no mistake about this. Yet, we seem to expect healthcare providers to be more than someone being driven by profit, as if they were saints. Are we expecting too much? At least I am.

My children’s previous piano teacher was full of complaints about the attitude of the doctor who treated her husband’s cancer. “He talked without any compassion,” said she. I also witnessed some people at our clinic who are very single-minded in their coming to the clinic everyday. This doctor happened to work at our clinic.

Coming from the background where Dr. Norman Bethune was a household name, resulting from being strongly recommended in Mao Zedong’s article, “In Memory of Norman Bethune,” I have expected nothing short of a humanitarian figure with expert in medical science from our physicians. Imagine how distant I am from reality. Well, it gives such a cozy feeling to live way above the clouds.

I once told a friend of mine that she would be bitterly disappointed if she expected to see people like Bethune or like Dr. Elton Lehman in House Calls and Hitching Posts: Stories from Dr. Elton Lehman’s career among the Amish. To be sure, they are good professionals in their own way, only if we ourselves have not idealized them out of proportion.

An Unforgettable Conversation with a Nurse at Work

There is a nurse at our infusion room. For some unknown reason, she came to our office and initiated a conversation with me a few weeks ago.

“Is your son married?” she asked.
“No, he is only 21,” was my answer.
“People get married at that age. Where does he work?” was her next question.
“He is not working,” I was getting a bit annoyed at her question.
“What is he doing? Just stay home?” she further asked, getting more and more stupid.
“No. He goes to college,” said I.
“Oh.” she seemed to be surprised over my answer.

To her, going to college doesn’t seem an option for a 21-year-old. Isn’t that amazing!
“Did you ever work with a Chinese before?” I asked her.
“No,” came her answer.

No wonder she brought up so many not-wise questions. I have never met a Chinese here whose children do not go to college. Meanwhile, many Americans at our clinic only have an associate degree, not even a bachelor. Their children are no better than this. Now I should not be surprised to confront questions like the above. Still, I am not comfortable with the assumption behind her questions.


I read this article from yahoo! HotJobs on 5/23/2010. Though I am not sure if it is something new, I find it amazing some people go to any length just to keep a constant watch on their employees. So much for the trust. So much for the dignity and respect. Below are some of the ways that employees could be watched, according to this article.

(1) Reading your emails. All your emails sent through company email account are potentially exposed to your employer’s scrutiny. So be careful what you send there.

(2) Phone-monitoring. This is to keep track of your phone use, to whom you call and how much time you spend chatting over the phone during work hours. This is understandable. After all, who would pay you to chat with friends?

(3) A CCTV (closed-circuit TV) system is cheaply installed so that you can be watched all the time to make sure scandals like Clinton-Lewinsky won’t surface in your office. After all, it is your office not bedroom.

All these remind me of George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four published in 1949 and the Big Brothers hover over your head invisibly — something to keep in mind while at work.

“Don’t Bark. Be Good and Get back Safe and Sound”

This was first written on 8/5/2009 after I observed a colleague of mine yelling at me. She has a dog, which she kept talking about. For some funny reason, every time she yells, I think of her dog or a mad dog. Strange association.

“What did your dog say to you this morning before you leave for work?” I asked.
“My dog said, ‘Don’t bark. Be good and get home safe and sound,'” said she.

I imagined this dialog and was thinking of sending it to her, but I withheld myself. It has been nine months since she barked at our office. The experience is still vividly before my eyes. I seem to have an excellent memory for spicy event like this one.

The Nature of Physician-Patient Encounters

On a Saturday, May first, a friend of mine came over in the morning, asking us to accompany her to a doctor’s visit as her English is not up to the task. She needs a physician to confirm that her muscle pain is job-related injury. She asked us to help her describe the incident so that it sounded convincing to the physician. Since she had muscle pain before, “What if the doctor finds out that it is not a new problem?” she asked.

“You describe what has happened on that day from your perspective. The doctor makes medical decision based on what he hears and what he discovers through examination. Nothing can alter what he observes and what he believes. What he believes is also influenced by any preconceptions that he might have,” I explained, not sure if the listener could follow it.

This touches the nature of the encounters between doctors and patients. Some patients are of few words, thus revealing little of themselves, while others might be full of words. But the doctors know not to take literal meanings out of a patient’s mouth. They always interpret what they hear and observe. Objective decision is never truly objective. So it is between a doctor and his patients, so it is true with any human communication. We think we have made ourselves understood. However, without further feedback, we can never be sure of that.

Versatility: A Big Help in Times of Recession

Last day for tax return. We rushed through it the day before this last day.

This year our company let go of the same number of people as it did last year, plus some staff shifting among its satellite sites. As the result, I began working with a new colleague since last week. Normally, the rule of layoff is last-in first-out. This person told me yesterday that she joined the company after those who just got laid off but still had her job now. “It is because I can do both project manager and CRC job.”

In fact, she can do a lot more than this. She has been involved in staff training, project management, clinical research, meeting federal auditors, etc. Thus, she can be placed anywhere there is a need.

Unless you are the rare expert in one field, versatility, being able to play multiple roles, makes you more valuable to the company than your single-skilled colleagues and less vulnerable in times of recession.

Layoff On the Morning of Good Friday

On the good Friday of 4/2/2010, the sky seemed to pour cats and dogs. My office window faces a path that leads to emergency room at SMMC. For some unknown reason, I saw more emergency medical cars with light and sound passing this way in the morning. I had a feeling of something foreboding coming.

This feeling was quickly confirmed during one of our monthly research meetings that morning, that is, two people in our department were let go starting that day. I felt sick when I thought of one of them who just had his second baby last year and was in great need of his paycheck. It is a totally business-driven decision. I thought of how he was joking around, cheerful and carefree. Everybody present that day seemed to get the message loud and clear because nobody uttered a sound after the announcement. It has been a few days after the announcement and I still have not got over the initial shock of the news. I feel sad for him as I realize this is the bad time to look for jobs and he can’t afford not to have one.

The message that I drew from this layoff reinforced what I always believe while holding any position for others. Hold fast to my own personal agenda. It could happen to anyone of us. Be prepared.

Talking: A Must Skill at Workplace

Last Friday I worked at another clinic of our company, where my colleague and I did some chatting before we dug into our work. My colleague who is very much a friend of mine told me that she had a brawl with the manager and the manager must hate her now. “I am not afraid of her,” said my friend.

(1) I don’t understand why she fights with the manager or with anyone for that matter? She takes care of her responsibility while manager takes care of hers, strictly business or professional. How could a fight burst out between them?

(2) Managers are human, too. As any fight tends to create a hard feeling between persons involved, fight with the manager will inevitably make it uncomfortable for the two to talk to each other. Indeed, this is the case now.

It is really not a matter of who-is-afraid-of-who but how to have a pleasant work environment. By the end of the day, I must say a fight hurt us more than hurting anybody else. Therefore, avoid fight as much as we can. Don’t be the first one to raise voice. If we are upset over some grievances, instead of fight, talk or learn to express ourselves in the way that does not make people uncomfortable. Don’t take anything at work personal. Talking is the skill that we must be equipped at work place.

Annual Evaluation — Give Credit to Yourself

Annual evaluation is the time to celebrate the greatness in each of us and to give credit where credit is long over-due. Our annual evaluation consists of three sections — Objectives (34%), Competencies (33%), and Shared values (33%). Whatever they include in the form reflect whatever they value in the employees.

The competencies section includes —
(1) Uses technical/functional experience
(2) Demonstrates adaptability
(3) Uses sound judgments
(4) Shows work commitment
(5) Commits to quality
(6) Leadership Competencies

The shared values section includes —
(1) Customer Service
(2) Accountability
(3) New Ideas
(4) Communication
(5) Energy
(6) Results
(7) Collaboration
(8) Analytical Thinking
(9) Respect for Others
(10) Ethical Standards

Assessment scales are (1) Exceeds expectations (2) Meet expectations (3) Needs improvement. I gave myself the best possible rating on some of them. We are expected to give second rating on all of them, otherwise, we should add comments to either above or below expectation. I left the following comments —
“I am accountable, ethical, responsible, honest, respectful, going out of my way to bring joys to others. On top of all this, when I do the right thing, it is not because I think I should but because I want to do it. As always, I cannot see myself otherwise…”

I know I have a lot laurels to adorn my head, but I have not claim them all. Still, my daughter thinks I kinda of bragging. No, I am not. I am just being honest. Think this way, if you don’t see your own value, who else will? It does nobody good if you are devalued in your own eyes.

An HR manager started talking about annual evaluation with this opening statement, “I know nobody likes annual evaluation. Well, it’s this time of the year.” I wonder why people don’t like giving self-credit.

No Apology Because I Am Not Sorry Any More

This happened on 12/14/2009. This is one of those days you wish you stayed home. The pharmacy head was very upset with me on that Monday morning over the unannounced visit of monitor at their place, on Friday 12/11/2009. She said, “Next time when you have a monitor visit to the pharmacy, you need to give us at least 48 hours advance notice. Last Friday she came at 11 o’clock, the busiest time of the day and that screwed up everything.”

The fact is the monitor did make an unannouned visit to pharmacy, but she visited there around 10 AM, for about 15 minutes and left the clinic before 11 AM. Also, pharmacy could have told the monitor to come back some other time if they were busy at the moment. The pharmacy head was not in the office last Friday.

When you opened the pharmacy door to visitors, you complained about their visit, which is ridiculous because you have the option and initiative of not opening that door in the first place. Still, I kept explaining and saying “I am sorry.” Obviously, no explanation and apologies are needed as she still sent me away with these words — “You just cannot dump them into us any time you want.” Guess I should not be sorry at all. I wish I heard better words than this when I left. I wish I had said “FINE. I AM NOT SORRY.”

It is not a pleasant incident for posting.Still, it is what it is and I want to record it for my children and tell them that I do learn something from this. That is, I learn at least how people feel when they offer apology but their apology is NOT accepted. It doesn’t take an angel to be forgiving. But it certainly gives one an angelic touch when we forget and forgive. Do it when we can.

Luck and Go Above and Beyond Your Responsibility

The story goes like this. A young man works for a bike repair shop. He always goes above and beyond in his job. That is, he not only fixes the problem that customer points out, but any parts and places that need service, literally transforming a second-hand bike into an almost brand new one. Some of his colleagues think him silly. Not long after, one of his former customers offers him a position at his company, an upward mobility.

A friend of mine complains of her bad luck all the time. She is in the habit of opening her mouth with this words, “See how unlucky I am today…” According to this friend of mine, some duck has all the lucks and this young man is one of those lucky ducks.

If anything, the young man’s experience reveals this to us — your go-above-and-beyond attitude will inevitably bring you good luck. Thus, instead of blaming your “bad luck, work on your attitude.

Self-Assessment Better than Other Assessment

I had a very interesting email exchange with the training and development manager in our company on 12/31/2009. When we were asked to have four people doing assessment on our leadership skills, I wrote to her, voicing my objections. I told her frankly that I don’t like the idea of letting others assess me. Why?

(1) I believe I know myself best and I can be as objective as I should be in judging myself. You can challenge my objectivity as much as I challenge that of other people’s.

(2) It is human nature that people can accept pleasantly anything unpleasant about themselves if only it comes from their own mouths. e.g. if I am fat and plain, it is perfectly okay if I mention my extra pounds but boy, how mad we would be if we hear it from others.

(3) Even worse, people tend to feel a bit resentful when they hear negative comments on themselves or get a lower rating. That’s why I always ask my children to do self-evaluation.

If we trust that our employees have the ability to assess themselves, why not handing over this tool to the employees instead of having others do it on them? What is the consequence of not trusting them? Damaging on all fronts. What is the consequence of not having an objective self-assessment? Nothing but lack of intellectual maturity. But the process might help them know themselves better and reach the level of mental maturity that they should have.

Finally, I believe it is always the best policy to have people do their own self-evaluation or assessment. Same can be said of our children.

A New Year Resolution Dedicated to a Co-Worker

It happened again right after New Year break on the Monday of 1/4/2010, in the holiday spirit. A co-worker could not find something and deadly believed that I took and lost it. I was at another clinic today. Still that would not stop the barking of a mad rarity. To say I was not disturbed by the uncivilized outburst is a lie, even though I am aware of the fact that we are not on the same level on all aspects and I should block her out of my radar of attention.

I shared the experience with my daughter, who told me that I should tell the manager. There is a difference between school and company, though I don’t like adult way of settling differences either. To record this event, I wish this co-worker adopt the following New Year Resolution.

(1) Stop accusing others when you don’t have any evidence
(2) Stop treating others less than human
(3) Stop yelling when you can talk
(4) Stop acting like a brainless high school bully in work place

P.S. I shared my writing with a friend of mine who cannot understand why I don’t rise up in arms and fight. I don’t risk my peace of mind this easily. Honestly, this is the only really bad egg in the pot and I have never been in it.

An Architect Lost His Job and Stayed Unemployed

Yesterday was a cold Saturday. I went to a friend’s house, where we talked about economy or rather the bad economy and severe unemployment. She told me of one of her acquaintance who used to be an architect but has lost his job for some time. The guy has been home waiting for some architect job openings. Luckily the wife still has the job.

This is so typical with not a few people who have lost their job but refuse to adjust their expectations and get back to work force in whatever form they can. If they cannot find a job relating to their educational background, find whatever job in the market as long as there is paycheck, unless the guy is willing to be a stay-home dad. Otherwise, anything is better than staying home and waiting…

I told my friend that the guy got to have some other skills that he can sell. All he needs is to make an inventory of his skills and expertise and check these skills against job market. Once he finds a match, go full speed selling his skills. One step back, if the guy has no marketable skills, try and get some training or re-education. Trust me the combinations of these two assets — skills and initiative– can eventually take you to your destination and much much farther than that.

My daughter heard the story, commenting, “The guy got to change his course if that road has no outlet.”

A Laughable Misunderstanding

On 11/9, at about 10 AM Monday morning, one colleague from another office sent an email me, saying another colleague of ours was not in today. Later in the afternoon, when I went to the other office, hurriedly doing some work, one colleague talked to me in a very nebulous term. “You know it’s hard for one person to do it all, if you have only yourself. You have something you got to do yourself and have nobody to turn to.”

At first I thought she meant it was hard for me to do it all since I was the only one in that office today. I was wondering, “Strange. How come she suddenly cares about me? It’s so unlike her.” I was going to say, “Not that bad since we don’t have monitor today,” but when she mentioned her husband who had a flexible work schedule so that she did not have to do it all, I realized she meant the other absent colleague, who couldn’t come because she did not have anyone to turn to and got to do something today. She did not need to explain this to me at all, as I don’t care whoever came or not.

It is so interesting how the event turns and how erroneous was my assumption. Then I don’t understand why she was so evasive, if she was so eager to explain. Why not simply said, she couldn’t come because she had to do this or that during weekday. I know she wanted to find some excuse for her absence but she did not want to reveal the exact why.

I must be too bored to record this. But then, it might be an interesting read later. At least a break from a boring day. The next day, something of this nature occurred again. On the morning of 11/10, a colleague of mine told me secretly that another colleague got fired this morning. Both of us were deeply disturbed at seeing her go and wondering why. “Because many people don’t like her and monitors complain of the work she has messed up. She messed up with many things, so the manager has to let her go” was the answer. We were thinking who would take her place when the phone rang. It turned out that the so-called “fired” employee was joking. None got fired at all so far, but she might because of this joke. She was just being bored and extremely stupid. She reminds me so much of the book Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua Ferris.

Work is a constant learning process. On 11/11, when a colleague of mine offered me some chocolate cookies, she said, “You will be as fat as me after you eat them all.” I said, “No I won’t.” She said, “You are not supposed to say so. You are supposed to say, ‘No, you are not fat. You are just like me.'”

Where I Spend One Third of My Day

I look at it all the time until my eyes are tired

A friend of mine asked me for a picture of my office. Here’s a corner of it.
First day of the last month for the year 2009, with a crazy week ahead, auditors plus monitor plus training plus exam on Friday and another monitor visit on that day. Last month of the year is always the busiest one — the beginning of it all today.

Equality and Sincerity are Keys to Meaningful Dialogue

This happened nearly a year ago or even earlier than that, before my partner moved away. She was explaining something to me that I already knew. The phrase that I learned back in China came to my mind — don’t try to teach your Grandma how to suck eggs — and it was so funny that I couldn’t help showing smile on my face.

She caught me smiling and asked “Why do you smile? Tell me.” “I was trying to figure out what you think,” was my answered. “What am I thinking now? Tell me,” she asked.

The way she asked sounded like ordering me, but I could see she was intrigued. Nosy plus bossy. Still, I would not tell her. “If there is one person who truly knows what you are thinking, that person is you.” “No, I want to know what you think,” insisted she. “Nothing. I was thinking of nothing,” with that I left for my room.

I find it hard to forget this piece of dialogue. It reveals so much about people. Why do people care to know what others think of them? Does it matter that much? Didn’t she know that I would not tell her the truth if I let myself open my mouth? Couldn’t she see her own arrogance and condescending attitude when she talked to me, which blocked any sincere conversation?

Honest, this attitude brought smile on my face in the first place. For my children, treating people as equal is the key to any meaningful dialogue or conversation, regardless where you are, at home or at work.

P.S. 6/30/2010, this person was transferred to another office a few month before this entry. Now she does not work in our research department, though in the same clinic.

Features and Rotten Behavior of Bad Eggs in Work Place

I read from U.S. News and World Report on 11/13 an article about undesirable co-workers.

1. They dump last-minute work on people when they could have avoided doing so.
2. Complain about people without telling them directly.
3. Exude negativity, finding faults in whatever others say, in the habit of negating any input.
4. Bring personal life to the office in ways that make people uncomfortable.
5. Being chronically defensive, so that nobody will bother to tell them when they make mistakes.

What a short and sweet list! That’s already stink enough for being one bad egg. I am too familiar with people demonstrating all of the above. They are best at making a hell of your day. They are so much miserable to be around. One co-worker of mine is very touchy and inflammable at a hint of a mistake that she makes so that I once suggested jokingly that that bad egg should go to other clinics. In Chinese, lao hu pi hu me bu de — they are like tigers whose buttocks are untouchable.

For my children, get rid of any of these traits if you find yourself so unpleasantly possessing any of them. Otherwise, remain free from them. I will make sure they read this and avoid them in their future work. Even better, they might never find themselves in the similar work environment as I do.

Impudence Marks an Otherwise Boring Office

The lack of civility and too much insolent behavior seem to charaterize some part of office experience, unforgetful and endless source of amusement.

It happened a few months ago, still every time I think of it, I find it interesting and worth recording. Seeing me taking the leadership workshop, some co-worker asked me why I took it, was it because I wanted to be a supervisor. The question was put forward with a mixture of curiosity and ridicule. Indeed, isn’t that absurd that I should ever take a leadership workshop when I am perceived as somene to be led, one of the herd, instead of a lead of the herd?

Honest, I think it takes some naive guts and brainless bravery to even come out with this question. I could easily detect the thinly veiled contempt shown on the face of the speaker. I appreciate the honesty and frankness. Not really unpleasant when you are so entertained. I am too used to it. It is called adaptation. For now, I feel so much better for having explained to that person the difference between leaders and managers. “Em, interesting,” was the answer. That means I have taught someone something new, like it or not. Even more intriguing.

End of a passing thought for this Monday morning.

The Dedicated Doctors at Our Clinic

Yesterday I went back home around 3 PM, then took my daughter to skating place. On the way back home, we passed my work place, so I stopped by to take care of some small business. It was nearly 6 PM. I was surprised to see at least two doctors were still hard at work on patients’ charts. I realized one of them came to the office around 7 AM in the morning. Indeed, no exaggeration, I feel like seeing Lei Feng back to life.

I thought of the department meeting on Thursday when the manager emphasized the observing of proper lunch break, that is, do not take too long break. Talk about work place culture, I realize there are surely good exceptions. There are people of two extremes — the dedicated few with noble souls who only care about patients and their work on one side of spectrum; and people who can’t wait for the end of their 8 working hours and leave on the other side. I have see a co-worker left office at the moment when a patient called. “Let them leave a message. I need to go home.”

I wish I were one of these dedicated few. As it is, I am not. I can only record this observation and someday share it with my children, hoping they will have a chance in the future.

A Culture of Procedural Rules Everywhere, Anywhere

Something happened in the nature of deviating from standard practice by at least two people at work place on 11/3. We expected two monitors for our company this week for one study. One was sick, so the other asked us to see if she could come to our site on the day she was not scheduled to and we had monitors from another company on that day. I told monitor no. Mostly because a monitor should always make schedule change via project managers, which she did not.

Meanwhile, one colleague of mine went ahead checking to see if we could accommodate monitors from two companies. This happened before where monitor short-circuited PM and went to the clinic directly for site visit. I remember how upset the PM was over this bypass. So I tried to stay out of it as much as I could, as I was more concerned with proper procedure than efficiency.

Indeed, oh how she was upset from her email that I opened the next morning — reiterating to both monitor and us that she was “still to be the primary contact for scheduling monitor visits.” The other co-worker couldn’t understand why the PM made a big deal of it. You would think it more efficient if a shortcut is found and taken, but you violate procedural rules.

It is very important to keep in mind that American society is dominated by procedural rules. An extreme case is a murderer could be set free if the prosecutor violates procedural rules in the process. A criminal must be proved guilty by the legal procedure. Work place in America over-emphasizes the proper procedure for any work process, resulting in lack of flexibility sometimes, or sacrificing substance and efficiency. Be fully aware of these procedural rules. Violation of this could offend people and get into trouble even if you have every good intention of getting a job done.

Another Evaluation of Work Place Culture

I was asked to give my observations of the culture of our company. I started with some disclaimant to any observations, which include the following.

(1) What one observes is the culture of one department, which does not necessarily represent the whole companies.

(2) It is further restricted by the small scale of people that come into contact with one person on daily basis, which means this small scale is not representative of the whole department.

(3) Any personal perception is very much biased, thus very subjective and unreliable, taken with some reservation.

Keeping this in mind, here are my observations of our clinic:
(1) Most people at our clinic have the good intention of doing the right thing everyday. But that does not mean they actually do what they intend to do.

(2) People are overwhelmingly cheerful and happy with their work, as indicated by the scarcity of complaints.

(3) Most people are very strictly business-like and professional, especially the doctors who never waste breath talking with others.

(4) There are persistent isolated negative forces around some particular persons who tend to blame others, gossip behind people, deviate from the standard practice. Then, again, wherever there is social group, such forces are inevitable.

I throw out these observation, without expecting to be a tiny bit understood by whoever read it.

Look Smart. We are Often Judged by our Appearance

When an American acquaintance of mine, out of her kind heart, offered to be my teacher of American popular culture, I started questioning myself. Do I appear this dumb, after 1/4 century stay mostly in higher education section?

This reminds me of the talks people so much enjoy engaging daily on how this or that dresses, in or out of fashion, and how much importance people attach to being right in one’s dress. Last week, I noticed how a CRC looked up and down at a monitor, as if making judgment on how people dressed.

All this reminded me of the time when I first reached this land in 1984 in Waco, TX. A nice highly religious lady, in an attempt to civilize me, blessed her heart, taught me how to eat apples. I was very much tempted to crack a joke telling her I used to live in cave or just got used to life off the tree. A salesgirl at a camera store ignored me at first but took a 360 degree change of attitude when I insisted on seeing her manager. All because I looked like a refuge fresh off the boat instead of a Ph.D. candidate.

Looking right has been important from very beginning. Yet I have all these years conveniently ignored it, lazily gone by my own rule, refused to yield to the shallow and superficial part of American culture, well, except during job interviews when I cared to look not-like-me. Meanwhile, I have observed the spectatular ignorance demonstrated by the nicely dressed and thickly-powered folks. A constant source of amusement at work.

Just Culture of Disrespect at Work Place

It is so funny that both of these should occur on the same day. Yesterday morning, we had a meeting introducing another must-take-annual-training-course “Just Culture.” I had a great expectation before meeting, but was disappointed after that.

I thought it was going to be focused on being positive and respectful, no gossip and dirty language at work place. Got really excited over the change of office culture. Instead, it emphasized on being legal and lawful, doing nothing against rules, regulation, laws and orders. Do not do anything to get us into legal trouble. The purpose is to create a culture in which everybody automatically follows laws and rules. This is actually another version of compliance training.

In the morning, something rather unpleasant happened because of lack of a good work place culture. A colleague asked me about a patient. I wrote back saying it was not my patient. She wrote back saying I should do this or that, even if it were not yours. When I went to her office to explain, both the office dwellers said the same thing to me, and even worse.

I was extremely upset over their undisguised arrogance and immediately wrote an email but did not send. Why don’t people use “Can you …” instead of “you should …” as if they were some kind of boss barking out commands when they are nothing of this sort and are in no position to tell me what I should or should not? I resent greatly this kind of bossy attitude.

One step forward, even if they were boss, respect is still in high demand. Why is respect so much obviously absent among people who dress like going to Sunday church? The discrepancy between the appearance and the behavior defies explanation.

What a just culture or lack of it or whatever you name it! I shared this office experience with my daughter in the evening. She told me not to let it bother me, “Not worthwhile to think more of it.” I wrote to a friend of mine who wrote to me with this …

“I wish so badly you weren’t treated with such disrespect there… I will keep you in my thoughts and hope that the situation improves and that things will blow over!”

Now dust has settled and peace finally returns.

P.S. I am currently reading a book on American work place culture, Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua Ferris. A depressingly true presentation.

Interesting Real-Life Stories from Office

The doctor next door to my office was Women Who Mean Business honoree for the year 2008, chosen by Kansas City Business Journal. She is the only doctor in the list. She is one of the few doctors here who is easy to get along and has the least air of importance around her. Sometimes, I was wondering why other doctors couldn’t be like her. Now I know why.

On 10/15, one of my colleagues sent out an email, asking us if we would do something for our boss on the Boss’s day, like what they did last year, inviting the boss for lunch. I turned it down flatly as I am straightly against any activities that aim at bootlicking your superior and sacrifice my integrity, even though everybody does it and makes it a tradition here.

Last week, a big mistake committed by a colleague came to my attention. But as it was not up to me to point it out, I chose not to say anything to that person. I confirmed my view with another colleague of mine, who properly revealed the issue to some related person who wrote the doctor, without getting me involved. Alas, it takes so much to bring it into the broad light.

Yesterday I copied and gave my posting on work hard and spend harder to one of my colleagues, who asked for my blog site and was turned down. “You must have written about me on your blog,” said she. Well, on hindsight, I should not have shared so much in the first place, though I have nothing to hide from her.

Try to Stay away from Job Related Stress

The World Health Organization has called chronic job stress a “worldwide epidemic.” Work-related stress seems a part of modern life and culture, especially if one has to work in a company. Facing constant threat of layoff and deadlines, encountering and dodging unagreeable people everyday, modern stressful life causes stomach-irritation, appetite-ruining, sleep-deprivation, fatigue syndrome, general decline of health, and even cancer.

If you have choice, you can leave the stressful position and go with some less stressful one. Yet, for most of us, stress-free job is simply not an option. Still, no need to be pessimistic. There is forever one thing that is within your control, your attitude, regardless of your environment. Yes, you can always choose an attitude and a mentality, that gravitates to stress-free and to your health and benefit.

Job for Government or for a Private Company

This is from a monitor who used to work for US government, that is, for CDC. Now he is working for a private company. This is what he told me. “It never pays well if you work for government or for university. Only private practice pays well. The tradeoff is you have more security working for government or university but not enough to live well. You got paid well working for private practice but never have the same level of job security.”

This is true in the past, but I am not sure how things are now and how it will be in the future. Also, I realize he has to travel for 80% of his working time, away from home, from his responsibility as a father. Because of this I would say he has to pay dearly for his well-paid job. Yes, the cost of his well-paid job is the joy of his family and the hardship of constant travel.

Life consists of so many tradeoffs, though not always of equal value. We always compromise, sacrifice or give up something in order to gain something else. I hope my children will follow a rather different path from that of this monitor and will take whatever job, government or private, as long as they don’t have to compromise the joy of their families.

The Drabness of a Newsletter and the Terrible Compromise of Job Integrity

A company that I know of has an internal newsletter, which is supposed to be something relevant and interesting to the rank-and-file employees. Instead, it has become the showcase of the company and the upper management. It is getting more and more irrelevant to the employees, not even providing short fillers to entertain, so much so that some people trash it without opening. Now, the MyNewsLetter is better known as myBossNewsletter, as the newsletter writer, being hired by the upper management, seems to succumb herself to be a mere mouthpiece of those who pay for her.

This MyNewsletter, being severely lack of job integrity, reminds me so much of the newspaper in China a quarter of a century ago. At that time publications served wholly for party’s propagation, with newspaper being the direct mouthpiece of the controlling party. Things are a whole lot better now in China.

It is a great pity that the newsletter writer abandons a more interesting route, that is, go to each work sites, meet people, talk with those working down grass-root level, read what the customers write about the employees, seek out stories, and scoop something news-worthy enough for people to read. Indeed, life is as interesting as we represent it.

An Incomplete List of Daily Activities

In applying for CCRP exam, I had to write a description of my job. Hence I scribbled the following incomplete and much simplifiied list, which excluded any unpleasant details that is also part of the job. Such as dealing untoward persons everywhere. I am amazed at how much I have to handle or how much fun that I should enjoy.

(1) Review extensively physician and clinical documentations, lab results, CT reports, pathology reports, and treatment plans in patient’s medical record to verify and process data.
(2) Ensure accuracy, integrity, compatibility, and compliance of data in accordance with related federal rules and regulations and industry’s standard practice.
(3) Capture all related identified or de-identified clinical research data
(4) Prepare for and assist federal, sponsor and network company audits and monitoring activities.
(5) Function as the contact at the clinic for auditing and data monitoring activities.
(6) Participates in education, training and activities regarding clinic research.
(7) Resolve and handle data discrepancies with sponsors
(8) Process sponsor regulatory documents at the clinic level
(9) Obtain medical records from outside facilities when needed
(10) Update company’s internal clinical trial management system
(11) Response to sponsors’ request for medical data
(12) Maintain open communications with physicians, project managers, nurses, clinicians and sponsors to clarify, verify, confirm data and ensure the proper documentation, data integrity, and accurate and complete collection of subject data.
(13) Maintain open communications with monitors to clarify data and resolve data discrepancies.
(14) Develop and enhance internal data verification and collection system
(15) Explain protocol to the patient when needed
(16) Involve the screening patients for clinical studies
(17) Help making schedule according to protocol when needed
(18) Write protocol deviation when needed

I surely do not suffer from lack of diversities.

Unnatural Behavior Observed in Healthcare Field

Here’s something interesting which I daily observe in our healthcare field. The doctors almost never talk to non-doctor others unless being talked to. Their faces are poker-like, lifeless. When they are talked to, they are very curt and laconic, absolutely no nonsense, as if they were totally above any trivialities or small talks like the rest of humanity. But they transform into different persons when they are among doctors, taking off their masks, sitting around, chatting and joking.

I asked a colleague of mine, “How do you explain this?” She agreed with my observation but was totally clueless. If I say I am as clueless as she is, I am telling a lie. I have seen too many birds in the forest and can easily see through the mask of authority on the expressionless face of some of the doctors. One might be wondering constantly what it is beneath the mask. Well, nothing deep. Actually they are not as complicated as one might think. I feel sorry for them when they have to carry the air of importance and behave so unnaturally outside their doctor circle. Life is so beautiful when the sun is out and everybody is randomly kind to each other. If not, you have to picture it in your head.

Call me hopelessly optimistic. I shall not think myself otherwise.

Good Communication — Respectful and Thoughtful

A small incident of miscommunication happened in my office on 8/18/09. A project manager asked about the status of some task. Instead of saying something like this, “I have been busy lately and will get it done this week,” the responsible person P1 emailed back listing what had kept her busy lately, which implied that she had done the work that should be done by another person P2, as if P2 had been negligent over her duty. She even cc’ed P2 this email.

Nothing is more thoughtless and imprudent than this email! P2 was furious over this email, writing back with a vengeance. Upon receiving P2’s email, P1 sensed the furor in the writing and wrote back about 10 paragraphs in length, full of explanations, trying to put out the fire. However, the damage cannot be undone regarding their working relationship.

Thanks for providing an example of the consequence of thoughtless writing! To me the incident emphasizes this — a good communication requires due respect and consideration, no matter where you are, at home or in your office.

What Motivate People from Leadership Workshop 2

During our second workshop, we learned theories on motivation — what motivates people to carry on their daily activities. We first learned Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, from the lowest level of need for self-preservation — food, clothes, and shelter to the highest need for self-fulfillment.

I still like what Psychologist Carl Rogers said about ideal self, that is, there exists in most of us a self-perceived self, a real self, and an ideal self. The ideal self is the one we aspire to be. I am motivated by the belief that there is always a better me, an ideal to pursue, always a goal or a new benchmark for me to reach. Tomorrow or next year will find me better than I am now.

Here’s what I learned from the workshop — most people live each day without any stuff like this at all. They express their really basic need for mere existence. Imagine the frustration one might feel sitting through the whole two hours observing these people with least entertainment!

Wake-up To the Excitements of Life

This morning, bright and early at 7 AM, we had a clinic meeting on Dr. Geffen’s Seven Levels of Healing program. To be sure, this was created for cancer patients, but I think it useful for anyone who has to go through any devastating experience brought upon either by disease or any unexpected and unfortunate events in our lives. Here they are, thanks to Dr. Geffen.

Rebuilding the Bridge Between Body, Mind, Heart and Spirit
Level 1: Education & Information
Level 2: Connection with Others
Level 3: The Body as Garden
Level 4: Emotional Healing
Level 5: The Nature of Mind
Level 6: Life Assessment
Level 7: The Nature of Spirit

Detail information can be obtained from Dr. Geffen’s site,

On level 6, Life Assessment, we are asked essential questions like this,
“what is the purpose of your life?”
“What do you want to achieve in your remaining time?” [may be days, months, years, yes, life is so freakingly uncertain]
“What do you want your loved ones to remember you?”

It is interesting that we tend to put off these ultimate questions in our lives until we are ravaged by life-threatening event. But questions like these knock us like a waking-up alarm — wake up from your humdrum, unexciting and uninspiring existence, value what you have, fling yourself into the excitement of living. Yes, get more than the maximum out of it, while we can, because we got only one life to live.

Ten Commandments for Your Workplace

The company issued to us “10 Commandments for Your Workplace” created by Harvey Mackay. Like the Ten Commandments in the Bible, the emphasis on these points only projects the reason behind this emphasis, that is, the sorrowful lack of them among the employees. To be sure, these are very good points, rich and sweet. That’s why I post them here to share with my readers and hopefully with my children someday. Comments are mostly my words.

(1) Be respectful, including people’s ideas, views, time, manners, etc.
(2) Follow through — if you promise it, do it no matter what.
(3) Think before you speak. Don’t exercise your freedom of speech at work
(4) Help out — go out of your way to help whenever you can, always
(5) Learn something new everyday — grow and develop for your own good
(6) Pay attention — don’t bury yourself in your own desk, keep your ears open to going-ons around you.
(7) Ignore pettiness — think BIG, rise above, always in life
(8) Be patient — you will lose everything if you lose your cool
(9) A good attitude is up to you — be a positive factor wherever you move your graceful self
(10) Do your best, in all situation and under all condition. You are the one who need to answer for judgement of your conscience.

Can’t Quit their Day Job Even at Age 70

Yesterday I met a neighbor of mine at the local grocery store. Most of the time we see each other and say hi and are too busy to chat, but not today.

She asked about my children, then the topic moved to her plan. I learned that the only bread-earner in her family lost his job recently. Though he found one later, the pay was far less than before. “We will probably work till [age] 70.”

After that, I kept thinking of her and feel sorry for my neighbor. What makes some people keep on working at age 70 and some others can retire before they turn 40? The only factor that determines when we can retire is money.

My daughter said, “How boring it is if you don’t work.” Unless you day job is exactly what you are interested in, you are better off turning to your real passion if you have this money.

Workplace Culture, Positive or Negative and Our Attitudes

Yesterday was a busy day — meeting early in the morning, monitor visit after that, fetching my daughter from school at noon, and leadership workshop at 3 PM.

On homework for yesterday’s workshop, we were supposed to ask 6 people of this question, “How would you describe the workplace culture here …?”

My partner and I each got 6 responses from 12 sources. While the responses I have received are almost all positive, those of my partner’s are just the opposite, partially because she assured people they were anonymous.

My attitude toward all positive input is, somewhere some people have not told the truth. It seems we need to cover our face to reveal the truth. Or some express what the workplace culture should be instead of what it in reality is.

I view negative input (criticism) as being more helpful than praise. First of all, people care to provide lengthy input. I would not spend that much time. Secondly, criticism opens our eyes to places where improvement is needed. Criticism has the potential to bring about changes, advances, and progress. If we are all content with our status quo, we feel no need to change, innovate and advance, and just wait for a sad ending.

I was shocked over some people’s attitudes toward negative input. They got defensive, trying to invalidate any negative inputs. In fact, other than the organizer, all present got defensive. In fact, their attitude toward criticism is nothing but negative. No wonder people want to remain anonymous — the only way to tell the truth. It is all because of this hopelessly non-confrontational lie-telling American culture. Happy Friday.

Don’t Give up Your Day Job. Keep Both

Don’t give up your paycheck to chase rainbow or go birdwatching or whatever catches your fancy.

I am not a big fan of the 2007 Consequence debut album — Don’t Quit Your Day Job! Yet, don’t-quit-your-day-job reveals so much of the conflicts between what we have to do and what we would rather do during the day.

“It would be so nice if your day job is what you are talented at and also what you are interested in,” I told my daughter dreamily. “That doesn’t happen often,” she soberly reminded me.

You may be talented in singing, dancing, drawing, even blogging. But if you cannot make a living in the field of your talent, you are better off flipping burgers and at least get paid for it during the day.

It brings to my mind my favorite Russian writer Anton Chekhov. His day job was a medical doctor, moonlighting as a writer. In his own words, “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress.” It must be exhausting to support a wife and a mistress. No wonder he lived only 44 years.

Isn’t that tragic? I wish we all could reconcile the two. So nicely goes the day job.

The Values Greatly Sought After and Painfully Absent

How are these values important to you — least, somewhat, or very important? That’s what our company asked us to answer in a monkey survery last Friday. I am sure these values are industry standards, not invented by us, though I don’t know where they copy them. To be sure, most of them are sadly and painfully absent here. Here they are.

1. Customer Service
Committed to service and quality; deliver strong customer service; believe everyone is a customer; strive to exceed our customers’ expectations; put our customers’ needs and desires above our own; measure our success by our customers’ satisfaction

2. Accountability
Take responsibility for our work and actions; act like owners; deliver on promises made; have a strong work ethic; pride ourselves on operational excellence; take pride in the work we do

3. New Ideas
Welcome new and different ways of thinking and working; are constantly thinking, “How can I make this better?”; value a spirit of continuous improvement; embrace technology and the efficiencies it enables; are innovative

4. Communication
Demonstrate candor, honesty, and forthrightness; express opinions willingly; value and respect the thoughts and opinions of others; are active listeners

5. Energy
Demonstrate sense of urgency; are fast-paced and active in our work; have a positive, can-do attitude; are self-motivated, self-starters; approach work with excitement; are energized by a desire to help others

6. Results
Meet commitments and deadlines; are metrics-focused; approach projects with stated goals and objectives; are decisive, assertive, and persistent in our convictions; meet customer and financial objectives

7. Collaboration
Value a team approach; seek feedback; build consensus; value trust rather than control; give credit to others vs. take; are flexible; support organizational goals

8. Analytical Thinking
Understand complexity; are analytical; show intellectual curiosity; are students of healthcare; are problem-solvers; are experts in our fields; learn from our mistakes; make informed decisions

9. Respect for Others
Respect others at all levels; develop and value relationships; engage with others; exhibit humility; are sensitive to the values inherent in community-based cancer care; treat each other fairly with courtesy and respect

10. Ethical Standards
Seek to do and say the right thing; are trustworthy and honest; respect confidentiality; adhere to a clear system of ethics, standards and values; comply with US Oncology’s Code of Conduct; pride ourselves on operational excellence

11. Self Care
We honor and care for ourselves as multidimensional beings – body , mind, heart and spirit. We take responsibility to care for ourselves on these various levels in order to live fully with focused intention. We seek to cultivate peace, love and joy within ourselves and to share this with those who enter our circle of care. We value a balance between work responsibilities and our personal private life.

I vote “very important” to all of them.
P.S. I asked HR person who invented the above. The answer confirmed my initial thought. They copied them from the Internet somewhere, but forgot where. LOL.

College Major and Deviation from Traditional Concept

Yesterday morning my son left home with his high school friend, driving their big vehicle. My worrying mind has followed them all the way to Atlanta, Georgia. Thank God they reached there in the evening, safe and sound.

During evening walk with my daughter, she said she missed her brother but she chose not to think about it. I told her the only thing she could do was to do something that could make her brother smile, like getting good grades and some other achievements. For some reason, she plans to take private violin lessons. Fine as long as she practises it.

While my son was home, short as it was, we had no time going out for a walk as we did before but we did talk about many things. I am always amazed by how young people think these days and how they are different from the way people of our generation do.

When we talked about college majors, I thought it very good to go into healthcare, as there was a perceived demand for such job and it promises high job security. But my son said it had very limited pay potential, even if you were a doctor. Indeed, it is true a MD has little chance of ever breaking its ceiling to reach even half a million. He would not get into any profession with a limited income. I never thought it this way.

Every time I talk to him about his occupation, he always gives me the feeling that life is so exciting and full of opportunities, with the sky being the limit. There is always something new and fresh, out-of-box thinking, vastly different from the way I think. He must be characteristic of his generation and I of my generation. We are intriguely different from each other. Because of educational background or cultural difference or different parenting? It is too interesting to be dwelled upon in detail now, something for me to think about later when I have more time.

Work and Sanity — Try Not to be Funny in a Nasty Way

I am not sure if I have written anything regarding this experience, but something happened last Thursday reminded me of this experience again and I felt a strong urge to possibly re-write it, even if I might have written on this before.

The monitor wanted to see a document which was requested over two years ago, even before I came into the team and I had no idea if that document was ready for monitoring. Plus patient’s record was not immediately available since patient expired two years ago and her records was sent to storage.

So I went to ask the person who should be responsible for this patient. That person, immediately sensing something went wrong, yelled at me for not having patient’s record ready for the monitor, her eyes like a pair of daggers out of a honey jar. I did not utter a sound. I just shut my eyes for I saw what I had witnessed during Halloween night when I suddenly opened the door and in rushed a vampire with bloody distorted vampire fangs, sweet and threatening, ready for action. I felt strongly about knocking out that fang pair. To be sure, she did much more than what I describe here. She also called the project manager spitting out more words unsuitable for any gentle ears. How I wish I could erase this miserable experience from my memory!

Number one, the monitor did not request this patient’s record in her pre-visit letter. I normally do not request chart to be retrieved from storage if monitors do not request it as it cost something extra for the retrieval.

Number two, this is not my patient and I have no idea what have been done in this regard. Remember I was not even there during her last visit 2 years ago.

Number three, I dislike strongly to be yelled at, just as an innocent baby hates to be inhumanely treated or being unreasonably kicked. One thing I find it extremely hard to stand is hearing f word throwing in the air all the time. I just take for granted that I work with an extremely mentally and psychologically perverted patient everyday. No other explanations. Honestly, I avoid this person as much as I can. Not that I am afraid of anyone, but that I value myself too much to allow my mind and spirit to be polluted by such a unworthy patient.

I used to think there is inconsistency in some people’s behavior — nice some day and nasty some other days, probably influenced by the hormone fluctuation, beyond personal control. Now, I announce that consistency does exist, that is, consistently mean and nasty, obnoxious and hostile, as if a lethal fluid running non-stop in that person’s blood. Yes, have you heard of non-stop infusion? Here it is.

Shut your eyes and imagine how it is felt to be biten by a mad dog. It is okay to be thus biten, considering it is of a different species, but the sad part is we humans never bite back in the same manner, do we? One has to remain funny in a mean way, if necessary, just to stay sane and sound, and not away from one’s principles. Honest, it is hard to be around such species everyday! Had I have a choice, I would stay away from mad dogs. I simply want to avoid being bitten by a dog. Blame me for being too civilized.

Yes, you can see I am not in a good mood when I think of this event. Hopefully I can forget it after this posting and start enjoy this sunny day.

PS. 5/19, I couldn’t believe I was in such a mean spirit. Well, if it is how I felt at that moment, as always, let truth stands as it is.

Assumption, Perception, Prejudice and Authenticity

We had a very interesting workshop on leadership yesterday afternoon. During our last meeting, we were given 5 leadership ability pre-assessment forms. I gave one to my manager and three to co-workers, keeping one for my self-assessment. It is supposed to be anonymous. They sent the completed forms directly to XYZ, the person in charge of the workshop.

To my surprise, XYZ gave back to us the results together with the complete forms. I could tell who did what even if their names were absent, their handwritings easily betrayed them. Some people stared at the results, utterly speechless. The discrepancy between their own and those of others must be shockingly and disturbingly huge.

The assessment rating goes from 1 to 4, with 1 being very weak and 4 the other extreme. I ranked my leadership ability mostly 4 and 3, very few 2s, and never weak on anything. Big ego, right?

But the one with whom I work closely everyday gave me either 1 or 2, mostly 1, absolutely no 3 and 4, which means, I am weak on almost everything and strong on nothing. I feel like out and out happy-go-around good-for-nothing. A blissfully happy idiot.

I shared it with my daughter, who said it was insulting to give this rating. To be sure, none of these assessments are free from bias, including that of my own. They are all rather subjective . There is no point to argue about the truth or authenticity. The amusing part is seeing the vast difference between perception of mine and that of this co-worker, though I don’t care even to know why they are so different in their perception of me.

If anything, it is a very good exercise. I hope my children could take this type of attitude if, in the future, they faced similar situation. Remain undisturbed no matter what is said of you. What others think of you is not as important as what you actually do. Do the right thing, always.

For me, I am more amused than anything else, least disturbed. I wonder if they would give the same assessment if they knew the results would come back to me with their true identity fully revealed. LOL. Another exercise for your imagination.

Happy Friday!
By the way, we have a lucky day today — month 5 times 3 = day 15 and weekday is also 5. What a fun!

Random Thoughts on Seeking and Giving Helps

To be sure, we do need some help occasionally at work, but whom to go for help is an art in itself and that gives me some thought about parenting and about how we give help. You got to know the person really well before venturing out. Not fun to figure that out, but a necessary evil.

There are two co-workers that I have heard of. People normally go to one and only one if people have any questions and avoid the other one as best as they can. The other one will surely chew you thoroughly out as soon as you approach her with some questions. Very touchy, irritating, cantankerous, any unpleasant term that you can dig out. You can feel she jumps over you simply at the thought of going to her. The worst part is you never know what she will do next, just to make sure you are having a hell of time.

The puzzle is she is totally unaware of how much she tortures others this way. Her attitude serves as a never-failed mirror, showing people how not to behave like this when we give out help as parents or co-workers. Sometimes, I feel a strong urge to reveal this baby-simple truth to this co-worker — each of us is extremely limited in our ability to help and to make difference in brief span of time on this hugely polluted planet. But I prefer to keep it to myself.

For my children, embrace each opportunity to reach out and help. Well, make sure not to over-reach any boundary that you might bump into.

Traits of Outstanding Leaders and Parents

We are having a workshop on leadership lately. Not sure if it is ever useful to me. Still, as I am exposed to some ideas on leadership, I have discovered that these are actually nice ideas, so wonderful that I am going to share with the readers here. It might be of some help to us as parents. You might be surprised to learn that leaders are humans first, leaders second.

Traits of Outstanding Leaders and Parents.
To be sure, the workshop was never on parents, but I keep thinking it for parents. Call it professional bias. Here are the four major traits.
1) Nurturing ongoing and interactive relationships
~~~~Allow for an equal exchange of ideas (so that they feel comfortable speaking up what they have in mind)
~~~~Consider the needs of employees (show you care about them)
~~~~Meet the needs of employees (so that they are willing to go extra miles for you)
~~~~Validate employees’ concerns (you actually listen to them)

2) Being in touch with innermost thoughts, feelings, and values.
~~~~Cultivating alone time
~~~~Connecting with nature
~~~~Assuming distance from the mission
~~~~Mediating and thinking deeply
~~~~Enjoying silence and solitude
~~~~Reflecting and writing
~~~~Visualizing and relaxing
~~~~Exercise regularly
~~~~Reading continually
~~~~Engaging in creative activities
~~~~Knowing yourself
Have some time at the end of the day for yourself, stick to your exercise schedule, take time to relax. Some people say exercise is an outlet, letting out the steam built up inside.

3) Walking the talk— act in a manner that is consistent with your words, practice what you preach. It is the epitome of leading when talk and actions fuse. Good leaders must truly believe in what they are doing. Sounds so familiar to me. Of course, the leaders learn it from Parents magazine.

4) Leading by influence — use influence instead of force. No spanking, that is.

It gives me such a warm fuzzy feeling to imagine having leaders fully equipped with these traits. Well, don’t be silly.

Anything that Can be Digitalized Can be Offshored and Much More

Some of my friends have asked me about jobs at healthcare industry. Are they secure? They were wondering. Not exactly. Nothing is guaranteed and nothing is secure. Face this reality — anything that can be digitalized can be offshored. e.g. medical transcription, radiology images, medical coding and billing. You can always scan the paper, the bill and transfer it anywhere you can find cheap labor to analyze it and file it to the insurance company.

At least two key trends have been made possible by IT and Internet. The first trend is going electronic in as many fields as possible, eGovernment, eHealth, etc. The general rule is any jobs that need in person service in health care, like doctors and nurses, cannot be outsourced.

The second trend, also made possible by the Internet, is more and more companies are seeking for global solution, which means seeking globally for cheaper solutions and high profit. The fast development of IT and Internet opens unlimited possibilities for the way a company organize and runs its business.

Face this fact, if you think you can put on a white uniform working securely in a lab, chances are someone in other countries can do a similar job or even better job than you, all at a fraction of your paycheck. There is nothing to stop the off shoring of this whole lab. This is only one possible scenario. Not that far-fetched when you are in dire need for cheaper solution. That is, until everybody’s labor gets cheaper not by dozen.

Get Stress Out of Your Job Part 2

As I promised the day before yesterday that I will get back on stress at work and the way to stay away from it. I realize this list is getting longer and some people might not need to be told of them. Such as, a compulsively neat and well-organized person needs to build up tolerance for the not-so-neat.

(5) Be Organized, especially when we need user name and password wherever we go. Nothing can get you more panic-stricken than forgetting your password and losing that piece of paper on which all your important stuffs are stored.

(6) Always work from a list. That is, make a to-do list the first thing in the morning and work from there. On the one hand, you got a clear picture of what is needed to get done for the day; on the other hand, it always gives you a good feeling to see them done by the end of the day. It is a good practice for anyone either at work or at home.

(7) Be prepared and proactive. From my own experience, nothing causes me to sweat more than being caught unprepared when a monitor showed up at the door. You feel a sense of control and less stressful when you are well-prepared.

(8) Good communication with your supervisor . Someone suggests making your needs known to others in your work place, that is, at discretion and right judgement. Sometimes, especially for very private persons, you feel less burdened if it is shared and understood by your supervisor. Again, you determine what is needed to shared with others.

I am sure there are more ways to make your work experience enjoyable. Once again, a positive attitude always all the time heads the list, be hopelessly optimistic, which reminds me of a book that caught my attention lately, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist , by Michael J. Fox, an actor and a patient of Parkinson’s disease. I love his book along with his shows. Program your mind to be this incurable optimist. Incredible? Yes, your mind is programmable.

Get Stress Out of Your Job Part 1

Last weekend I read an online article on job stress, which, I thought, is related to both our health and work experience. Nowadays, people who are not sacked out of labor force have to work under unprecedented and unhealthy stress, if nothing else, just to hang on there.

When we do what we have to do, the need to “enjoy” doing it against our will is extremely important. It’s like you trying to enjoy beating your brain out with a heavy-duty hammer. Well, a horrible scene indeed. Therefore, here are some of the tips that I garner from my reading and my own experience.

(1) Yes, your attitude is the number one factor. It determines your life’s experience, no matter where and when. Negativity in your outlook and total attitude toward people and your work poison your day more than anything else. Be nice, always, randomly and purposelessly, like an idot.

(2) Keep a record of your achievements. Take time to celebrate yourself when you feel you deserve it. Pat your own shoulder if nobody else does it. You must be the first to recognize your own effort, progress, and accomplishments. Call it big ego or whatever. I do it all the time just to make myself feel good and I need to feel good to move on in life. The ugly fact is –if you don’t see value in yourself, nobody ever does. How not pleasant!

(3) Keep fit physically. An old Chinese saying which I often quote to my children goes, “Sharpening your ax won’t take time away from your woodcutting.” In other word, when you take time off to sharpen your tool, it won’t leave you with less time for your work, because a sharpened tool will enable you to work more efficiently. The plain message is take time for exercise daily so that you will be happy and energetic, stress-free. Beside, a thorough workout can serve as an outlet for your pent-up, suppressed energy, especially when you work at customer service section.

(4) Create and maintain your own birds-of-a-feather network — your support group, which is the channel through which you can occasionally exchange complaints or any “politically-incorrect” expressions, without any fear, when you feel the need to.

So much for today. Not done yet. See part 2 tomorrow. The sun finally comes out today. Enjoy Mother Nature.

Key To Getting Back to Workforce — Time Management

Referring to my 3/26/2009 posting, “Pluck Up Your Courage and Rise Above Any Adversities” It would not be that hard to jump back after layoff in normal economic times. As it is now, we are so far below normal times when massive layoff takes place everywhere. A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me nowadays even a janitor position in KU attracted over a hundred applicants.

For those who opt for taking classes to further enhance their skills, time management is often not a big issue. When you choose to read and prepare for job market by yourself, your time will not be well-structured and this will call for well time-management by yourself.

Here are something to share from my own experience.
(1) Set a timer when you start certain housework so that you don’t get adicted to it and be carried away with over-enthusiasm. e.g. if you allow yourself 15 minutes cleaning off after a meal, set 15 minutes timer and stop yourself when time’s up, even if you are half-done. Do this for all kinds of housework. Trust me time runs away faster than you prepare.

(2) Turn off TV while working. Back at graduate school years, a friend of mine got to watch some soap shows everyday. It all started as an excuse, “I don’t just watch it, I am doing housework while watching.” Pretty soon, addiction was formed and watching became as much a must as household work. Imagine that. It is another story if you want to hear news.

(3) Try not to fall victim to the expectations of other working adult at home. To be sure, expectations of you are naturally built up when you are home, as if you had nothing to do at home, while the other adult is busy working outside. If you try to live to these expectations — cooking, cleaning, child-care, and tons of other drudgeries — you will find no time for job preparations and will feel frustrated by the end of the day for not having done much. Not a good feeling.

(4) I have nothing against being homemaker, if that’s your goal. But if you don’t want to end up being a homemaker, watch out for homemaker habits and pitfalls. There are too many of them to be listed here. You know behavior leads to habit and habit leads to your life course.

(5) Stay away from home if you find yourself wondering around doing nothing but endless non-urgent housework, answering calls and cleaning here and there. You can either go to a local library or a bookstore, where you can be more focused. Both of my children move themselves away from computer when they need to concentrate on their homeworks. Adults can do the same. Note, thanks to a friend of mine for mentioning this.

(6) Go on the Internet with a specific purpose and stick to your original purpose. Get off the line once you get what you look for. It is so easy to get sidetracked once being online. Before we realize it, the whole day is sadly gone.

(7) Avoid being the slave of your own creation. It means the amount of cleanup depends on how much you mess up during your cooking. You want to create as less mess as possible so that you have less to clean up afterward. A lot of time can be thus saved by forming this habit — less messup, less cleanup, small house, less cleaning. Alas, life would be much simple and beautiful if we were not buried to the neck with useless junks that we once willingly exchanged with our hard-earned money.

(8) Goal-setting using the SMART rule. We know the restrictive function of any rule. We need it especially when self-control and self-discipline are in short supply.

One last but not the least, perseverance, and mobilize all the fine qualities that you can summon in you. Make it a job to find a job.

Good luck, my dear friends!

Pluck Up Your Courage and Rise Above Any Adversities

If I could sing a beautiful song, I would dedicate it to those unremitting souls. This is how I felt after chatting with a friend of mine over the phone early this week. She is a single mom with two youngsters, approaching mid-age, just being laid off by Sprint. I was worried about her before. But now I felt greatly buoyed up by her high spirits and determination to bounce back. And I am so proud of her! Too bad I cannot sing and find myself badly handicapped when it comes to writing.

She told me of her plan to get a degree in health care. In fact, she has already started taking courses. When I told her story to one of my relatives in China, that relative said, “Why doesn’t she just stay home and take care of the kids?” For some people, the task may seem unsurmountable and they will simply chicken out. After all, they seem to have ample excuses not to try anything new. The inertia in each of us is simply too strong to make a slightest change, not to speak of a career change.

To be sure, it takes an extraordinarily strong will for people under her situation to go back to school, get re-education, and make a successful career change. Where there is a will, there is a way. I have nothing less than the highest prediction of her success. I just know many of my friends are like her and they will come back fresh and strong. To people like her, here’s my unreserved cheer!

This is how people with strong wills can pluck up their courage and rise above any adversities. This posting is dedicated to those who refuse to be crushed under the burden of misfortunes.

Work Experience Is Like Investments–Start as Early as Possible

Recently, my daughter and I have been talking a lot about her job, her eagerness to make money. When she was 12 year old, I told her to start working as a volunteer in the field she was interested in and continued into the end of her college years. By then she would have 10 years work experience and would place her far above her peer in job market. Time is on your side when you are so young. Nothing has been done so far.

Now she is eager to find a paid job in an attempt to fund her own summer school and other high expenses. While it is a good thing that children want to earn their own spending, I still find it hard to see kids taking any kind of job just to get paid. I told her that she should expect at least three gains from her job, money being the least important of all.
(1) Accumulate work experience
(2) Learn the skills so that you can get job done.
(3) Money.

Work experience is like investments — start as early as you can. Also like investment, it takes a long time to mature and to be experienced. My son started his internet adventure at age 14 during the first year of high school. You can never under-estimate its long-term benefit. I know my daughter will soon find something of her interest. To be continued…

Prepare for RIF –Reduction In Force in Workplace

Yesterday morning, a department meeting was called within less than one hour of notice and everybody must attend it. We all sensed something bad was going to happen, but I thought normally bad news was passed in a private setting, not in a meeting. The thought calmed me down a little bit. Indeed, it turned out the meeting was to inform us that a reduction in force had been implemented, reducing 21% of our department employees.

Although we had guessed something of this nature would happen and had prepared for it to some extent, we still felt very uneasy and could not go back to our work after that. Those impacted left the company immediately. It could be any one of us. It could be just the beginning. People started talking about next round of headcount reduction.

This is actually expected. With people being laid off everywhere, patients without money and insurance cannot pay their medical bills and thus medical practice cannot carry on as usual.

A few weeks ago, I bumped into a book entitled Bulletproof Your Job: 4 Simple Strategies to Ride Out the Rough Times and Come Out On Top at Work by Stephen Viscusi. Flipping through the pages, I didn’t give it much attention.

I think the book does not offer anything new. It only reinforces the obvious unpleasant fact that we must keep in mind everyday, that is, no job is secure and no job is bulletproofed, especially during this all-time downturn. The simple solutions or rather the author’s advice are four words: visible, easy, useful and ready. I wrote down mostly for my children in case they are fortunate enough to find themselves in need of them.
(1) Be visible. Not just do your work but show your work. A toughest one.
(2) Be easy to work with. That’s easy.
(3) Be useful.
(4) Be ready to do whatever is needed.

Here’s the most challenging task –“keep friends close and enemies closer.” The thought behind it must be: the greatest harm comes from our enemies. But what if we cannot tell who’s who? Beat me. Back to work.

Bitches and Witches at Work

Robert Sutton suggests in his book that that sometimes you just have to go with the flow and practice “indifference and emotional detachment.” “Just rely on your life vest and float with your feet out in front of you.”

It is so easy to say this when we are a bit distance away from the event. Now I can laugh at many unpleasant things that happened to me in the past, yet the hard part is to be able to put things in perspective when you are directly facing the event.
I feel sorry for those who have to work with either bitchy, aggressive or downright unreasonable people. There is no universal cure to this problem. It all depends on the kind of people you are dealing with and the kind of person you are and the amount of tolerance you can put up, and the amount of psychological and emotional damages you can stand by bitching back, and how much you are willing to give up.

The real sad part is you don’t have many legitimate choices in dealing with bitches at work. See if you can do better than this.
(1) Confront the bitch or the aggressor.
(2) suck it up
(3) inform the management
(4) pack up and go
At any rate, I have found none of the above works for me.  Well, I did confront but not aggressive enough.  I think it extremely important not to let the bitch turn you into one of them, that is, if you are not already one.  This is what I have to say to my children — always comport yourself with the full dignity and integrity befitting the standards and principles that you have been adhering to.  So much for the Friday.

The Last Email Sent to the Clinic by a Doctor

This was sent out around the end of year 2007. I dug it out when I cleaned my crowded email box, getting ready for a 2-week trip to China. I thought to share part of the email here. She said she was fully aware of the fact that it took “a team to provide the incredibly complex management our patients receive. And that we all have an important part in providing the dignity, respect, and compassionate caring that our patients deserve during such a challenging passage in their lives. I feel so very fortunate to have been part of the best team I could imagine.”

She ended her email with this — “I appreciate all of your help and support. With gratitude and thanks.”

I was touched by these words — “providing the dignity, respect, and compassionate caring,” when I used to think of doctors as simply curing disease and making huge money. Idealism still exists somewhere even among doctors.

Every time I met a good person I think of Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” She was wrong again. I know I am so bad at seeking out the good folks as if they do exist.  Laugh out loud.

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