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Beware Of Hidden Contempt For The People You Serve

It doesn’t matter how old you are, getting your blood drawn is always a scary experience.

And every time I go, I freak out.

The technician wraps that blue strip of latex around my arm and tells me to pump my fist.

Over and over I do this, until they can find a vein.

And as I sit there, sweating, a clipboard appears, as if out of nowhere.

“Please check that your information is correct, and sign here. Make sure to put the date on it.”

The needle comes closer and my eyes start to bulge. Nooooooooooooo……

“It’s gonna hurt,” says the tech.

And it does.

But just when I feel like I’m about to scream, it’s over.

The needle is withdrawn and a bandage is applied, quick and without any fanfare.

“You’re good to go, Mrs. Blumenthal.”

As it happens, my mother is a nurse who spent many years as a phlebotomist. She worked for a small blood center that was nevertheless busy.

Her main job, she would say, was to keep the patient calm. For obvious reasons.

So what began as a brisk, no-nonsense manner morphed into an extra-sensitivity.

She doesn’t work as a phlebotomist anymore.

But when she got paid to draw blood, my mother could take it from even the most panicky toddler.

We adapt our skills at work all the time.

Because outside a few, fairly static technical parameters, “doing a good job” is defined by the unique environment in which you serve. The culture and the people within it.

In a medical setting, healthcare providers increasingly are competing for the business of customers. And customers have very high expectations.

They also go online and post ratings. All over the place. In a very transparent way.

Anyone who depends on their customers for a living, and deals with them every day, learns well the meaning of premium service.

They learn it or else they don’t eat.

At the root of it is respect.

Without respect that is genuinely felt, service is impossible to offer.

The problem for the civil servant is that the consequences of poor customer service on their part are not immediately felt. This is particularly true for people working in an office environment, insulated from direct contact with the people they serve, “out there,” the public.

What is accountability? It is, in the end, karma — the consequence of the correlation between your values, attitudes, and behaviors on the job, and the results that your customers experience.

When accountability is lacking, it creates a fertile ground for organizational disease to take root, to grow and to fester.

Contempt is the primary symptom of that disease.

Contempt is the mindset that says, in the face of being funded from the taxpayer’s trough — “I’m going to get paid by you — whether I do a good job or not.”

This is not to make broad, sweeping statements about the nature of the civil service. Not at all.

There are plenty of customer-facing professionals in the private sector whose attitude is nasty at best.

It is to say that contempt is something to be watchful for. We can’t afford to have it. It is especially dangerous when your customer is in need of your basic services to live.

The word “accountability” is scary for a reason.

But it’s a bit easier to manage when you simply think of it as being your highest self.

Maybe you can’t see the customer directly from your workstation.

They still need you to do the right thing.


Posted August 2, 2017 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. This post is public domain. All opinions are the author’s own. Photo via Wikipedia.

You Will Never Get The Credit

I remember when my husband’s mother, may she rest in peace, spent some months in the Hebrew Home for the Aged before she passed.

We would visit her every Sunday.

I remember that she was in agonizing pain. Agonizing. There really are no words to describe it.

Looking at her crying out in pain, and I do mean literally crying, I wanted to shrink into the wall. Or maybe run away.

It was that hard to tolerate the sight of her suffering.

Many times I have asked myself how it is fair that God made her suffer so much.

When I think about all the things she did for me, personally, I know I did not thank her enough. I know I was not there for her in her final days the way I should have been.

In the nursing home I noticed that each resident decorated a special glass box with photos and other memorabilia from their lives.

Nobody ever seemed to look at those.

One woman, a Veteran, had her entire door decorated with items related to her service.

It was beautiful and impressive. But I didn’t ever stop to examine it closely. And I never saw anybody else look at her door, either.

I thought of all this as I was watching the news this morning.

If you were an alien and only got your information from the media, you would think that we were a quarrelsome species indeed.

With rare exception (let’s say weddings and Good Samaritan rescues) all us human beings seem to do is criticize, and fight!

We certainly don’t celebrate the daily, ordinary, humdrum things that ordinary, humdrum people do.

Things that keep our society moving.

Things that keep ordinary, humdrum people alive.

And doing your job brings with it a double whammy.

For one thing, most of the time, you don’t get appreciation on the job, for simply doing your job.

For another, when you go home, the family just does not want to hear it.

At dinner time, you’re not the big executive — “just Mom.”

In the end, all of us get older, and nearly all of us are forgotten — like a speck of dust in the desert, or a molecule of water in the sea.

So it’s futile to spend even one second thinking about what other people think, and whether they appreciate you.

What does make sense is to focus on the quantity and quality of your own personal journey.

Are you trying?

Are you learning?

Are you helping?

You were put on this Earth to grow.

So what makes you valuable is the now.

What makes your life meaningful is the process by which you live it.


Posted August 1, 2017 by Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. This content is released into the public domain. Photo credit: Alexis Nyal/Flickr.

In Judaism, Missing The Forest For The Trees

“If someone is studying Torah and fails to hear a baby’s cry, there is something very wrong with his learning.” Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, z”l, founder of Chabad, considered the largest Jewish religious organization in the world, whose primary purpose is outreach. Read the story behind the quote here.
Being a Jew is not something you can run away from.

You can trust me on that, because when I was a kid there was nothing I wanted more.

“No, no, no, I’m not a Jew, I’m a person,” I screamed, not to others but to myself in my own head. I hated the concept of being forced into the box, or was it the cattle car, where so many others had died.

“I’m a person!”

The educator Rabbi Manis Friedman (who happens to be a Chabad rabbi himself) gives a good talk on this.

Bottom line is, if you’re a Jew, you’re a Jew, regardless.

There’s no such thing as a “religious” Jew or an “unreligious” one.

There’s only how many commandments you keep.

Or as he puts it, “The Torah wasn’t given to Orthodox Jews.”

Growing up, the reason I gave myself for hating being Jewish was of course the hypocrisy of Orthodox Judaism.

That some people were privileged over others.

That some voices mattered, and others didn’t.

And, perhaps worst of all, that one’s level of spirituality seemed to be judged in the wrong way altogether.

The more you kept Shabbos and kosher and covered your body to the floor, well the more religious you were, right?

Except that sometimes, these very same people were mean, spiteful, crooked, hateful people. People who didn’t deserve the brand they wore.

Worse yet, as I got older, much older, I learned that the child sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church was also rocking the Jewish rabbinate.

It was a shit show, and by 2009 I was all but done.

I didn’t want to be associated with religion.

And when I thought of “coming back,” I responded to myself that my faith was too far gone.

But then one day, I saw a short video clip. It was powerful. It turned me around — a short clip by Pastor Joel Osteen, “Children of the Most High God.”

In it, the pastor tells us that God values us no matter who we are, or what we feel, or what we’ve done — just because they’re us.

The same message as Rabbi Friedman — we are Jews no matter what we do, because we’re Jews.

How we handle that birthright is up to us.

Which brings me to the lesson of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, may he rest in peace.

You can be an angry Jew who repudiates his or her Judaism all the living day.

Or you can be an engaged Jew.

One who tries, in her own way, to live the values other people don’t.

Posted July 30 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. The author hereby releases this blog into the public domain. All opinions are the author’s own and do not represent any other individual, organization or entity. Photo credit: aamiraimer/Pixabay (Public Domain).