Circling the drain…

Shingles triggers hives that bring on stress that exacerbates both Shingles and hives.

Political divisiveness triggers bombast that brings on closed-minded ignorance that exacerbates both divisiveness and bombast.

Power triggers self-importance that brings on indifference that exacerbates both power and self-importance.

Insignificance triggers anxiety that brings on confused indecisiveness that exacerbates both insignificance and anxiety.

Acclaim triggers pretense that brings on exaggeration that exacerbates both acclaim and pretense.

Certainty triggers overconfidence that brings on delusions that exacerbate both certainty and overconfidence.

Conformity triggers a benign negligence that brings on an impression of safety and security that exacerbates both conformity and negligence.

Taylor Swift triggers fervor that brings on frenzy that exacerbates both Taylor Swift and fervor.

Fervor triggers gall that brings on recklessness that exacerbates both fervor and gall.

Vanity triggers insecurity that brings on defensiveness that exacerbates both vanity and insecurity.

Existence triggers denial that brings on belief that exacerbates both existence and denial.

Healthcare visits trigger more healthcare visits that bring on excessive (often unnecessary) concern that exacerbates both Healthcare visits and more Healthcare visits.

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An Efficient Bureaucracy

An efficient bureaucracy works to distract, intimidate, persecute, partially by turning the ‘poor and oppressed’ against each other.

How do we just stand by and let this happen? Why do we play so readily into the hands of power?

We each choose a set of rules to follow, often staking our identity to those rules and thus resistant to change, and we look down upon those who have chosen a different set of rules. All the while, the rich and powerful do what they will, most often under the cover of an efficient bureaucracy. The majority of our majority – the poor and the oppressed – pretend to be a part of the elite by denying our majority. We are taught to set ourselves apart and we are taught to follow arbitrary rules and we are taught to believe the layer we occupy is primary. This enforced stratification is a house of mirrors. This enforced stratification maintains status quo. This enforced stratification is imaginary. The reality for all intents and purposes, like it or not, is that the layer we occupy is completely interchangeable with every other layer in our majority. And again, while we expend all our time and energy jockeying for make-believe position, the rich and powerful continue to do what they will.

This powerful faction says, “do this and all your problems will be solved.” That powerfully faction says, “do that and all your problems will be solved.” And when problems are not solved, the layers of the majority who did this blame those who did that and the layers of the majority who did that blame those who did this and the powerful factions congratulate each other and pat themselves on the back and continue to do what they will. And we look at each other, not recognizing ourselves, throw our hands in the air, and continue to look at each other.

If, as a whole, we could look outward, as the majority what might we do? Instead, as we are, divided into brittle layers, we look inward and ask what can we do?

What can we do?

An individual is understandably stymied by this question. And a single brittle layer instinctively feels they cannot move past the local animosity to look outward toward the actual problem. To disengage from even a single battle front in order to seek and find and breach the walls of a seemingly invincible fortress far-far-away just doesn’t make sense knowing once you retreat from your position it will be overrun. And though in the grand scheme that battlefront defeat may mean little, at least it is immediate – here and now. And again, their fortress is invincible. So we decide it is better to latch on to a chosen piece of rhetoric fired from a rampart of the fortress and continue to urgently attack the opposing brittle layer, and the rich and powerful continue to do what they will.

Though our immediate enemy is us, and though I make a case that our actual enemy is the rich and powerful, we could depersonalize further by recognizing that the True enemy is the system. And if the majority – the poor and the oppressed – were somehow persuaded to deny and let go their vested interest in the here and now, and if the majority of the majority were somehow persuaded to deny and let go their vested interest in the rich and powerful, and if the rich and powerful were then somehow more easily persuaded to deny and let go their vested interest in their bureaucratic system, then the greater good would shift and grow accordingly.

Justification can easily be found in power and in bureaucracy.

Justification is not Justice.

As long as the rich and powerful continue to control the system, the bureaucracy, the narrative, they will continue to do what they will.

Justification is oppression.

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Who Are You?

Who Are You?

  • Are You Serious or Are You Casual?
  • Do You Strive For Excellence or Do You Strive For Acclaim?
  • Do You Produce or Do You Pretend?
  • Are You Driven By Process or Are You Commandeered By Urgency?
  • Do You Plan For Improvement or Do You Maintain Order?
  • Do You Focus On Operations or Are You Lost In Bureaucracy?
  • Do You Seek Understanding or Are You Too Busy?
  • Do You Seek Justice or Do You Look For Justification?
  • Do You Apply Knowledge or Do You Give Orders?
  • Do You Learn And Grow or Do You Seek And Destroy?

I believe very strongly in the first choice in each pair above and I work very hard to practice, maintain and strengthen the resulting discipline in both my work and in my life. I am employed at a large state university alongside more than 20,000 other cogs. And asking me to go to work each day is like asking a swimmer preparing for a competition to train in a public pool catering mainly to children and teens who are there merely to make a big splash.

I don’t mean for that to sound harsh, pretentious, or judgmental, but perhaps it does. I only mean that I work hard at a regimen intended to lead me toward improvement, learning, and growth and if others choose not to, I don’t want to be critical of their choice so much as I want them to get the Hell out of my way.

Though I believe strongly in the first choice in each pair above, I understand they are not mutually exclusive. Regardless of intentions, we find ourselves moving up and down each spectrum. What I work to be conscious of is the cause for the movement. For example, when I am commandeered by urgency I find it is often because of someone being the Hell in my way. The same is true for bureaucracy. But when I am casual or unproductive or busy, I find it is often personal choice.

I am currently in a place at work where my supervisor is, (and most supervisors within reach are), destructive, meaning they tend strongly towards the second choice in each pair above. Regardless of which direction a supervisor’s direct reports lean or stand, the job itself by definition is rooted firmly in the first choice in each pair, and the further a supervisor finds their self from that ideal, the more entrenched we all become in our second choices.

Additionally and unfortunately, due to the large numbers of constituents and the job specialization that requires, we have some jobs and departments totally immersed in a second-choice function. For example, Human Resources is completely about bureaucracy and within that function they may practice first-choice habits and even learn and grow within their bureaucracy but because they are rooted where they are, they are destructive.

Additional thoughts:

To be serious is to differentiate fluff from substance from essence.

To maintain order, to keep the peace, hinders, stunts, limits improvement. Progress requires upheaval.

To seek understanding is to become increasingly more efficient.

Justification is Oppression.

Process implies forward movement. An urgency is an interruption.

Busyness is not busy. Busy is at times unavoidable. Busyness is pretentious.

It is much easier for a destructive supervisor to maintain order than it is for him or her to plan for improvement.

Operations implies active accomplishment. And if active accomplishment is serious productive improvement, then a bureaucratic operation arbitrarily hinders, stunts limits accomplishment.

An efficient bureaucracy works to distract, intimidate, persecute, partially by turning the poor and oppressed against each other.

Busy is the top layer. Busyness is the only layer.

Acclaim for excellence is a waste; time and energy better spent on serious productive improvement.

To seek power destroys personal learning and growth. Once attained, to maintain power or to exert power hinders, stunts, limits potential for improvement and others’ learning and growth.

Justification can easily be found in power and in bureaucracy.

A destructive supervisor is one who is immediately responsible, conspicuously separated from that responsibility, and often protected, safe, comfortable.

Final thought, for now:

Please, get the Hell out of my way…

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A Pattern

I have worked for a large state university for six years, the past five spent in the School of Medicine. Nine months ago, I made a lateral move from Internal Medicine to the Office of Medical Education. I just had my first formal evaluation and my supervisor, (who makes 7.4 times what I do), told me there would be no raise due to the wage freeze currently in effect. Yet my supervisor, (who makes 7.4 times what I do), conveniently received a 45% pay increase just before the wage freeze took effect.

I believe this inequity, alongside the facts below, establish a pattern…

  • Over the past two years for which there is data, this same supervisor gave his staff overall, average 15% and 10% pay increases which looking from the outside appeared to indicate a willingness on his part to take care of his people. I was aware of this data before making the decision to come into this job, so I accepted an 8% pay cut which was explained away as HR bureaucracy. This knowledge alongside assurances from co-workers that I would be taken care of, and the fact that I really wanted the opportunity, believing it would allow me to make a bigger difference, contributed to my decision…
  • Throughout 4 years in my previous position, I lobbied for just compensation, I received stellar performance reviews, I consistently received excellent student ratings, and I was recognized with a Service Champion Award. Despite all this, the department I left 9 months ago consistently paid me less than the average of others in comparable positions and started my replacement at a higher rate than I ever made…
  • Before interviewing for this position, I interviewed for a different position. I am now guiding and training the individual who is in the position I had interviewed for, and they are making 37% more than me…

On four different fronts (four different departments all in the School of Medicine):

  1. Pay cut (HR),
  2. Current job (OME),
  3. Last job (IM),
  4. Job interview (Psychiatry),

I have consistently been left behind.

From multiple angles:

  1. HR Policy,
  2. Comparing my pay to the pay of others with comparable job responsibilities,
  3. Percentage increases,
  4. Hiring decisions.

I have consistently been taken advantage of.

If discrimination is “making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit,” I have to ask, is this discrimination because of my age? Or my disability? My individual merit, to my knowledge, has never been questioned. It might be difficult to prove that this is collusion or a concerted effort but there is definitely a pattern of injustice in which on four different fronts decisions were made to treat me as a less consequential individual. And though the shared mindset may have suppressed age and/or disability as the reasons, it is my age and disability that have made me passionate, energetic, truthful which for a potential supervisor I believe translates to cantankerous and difficult and not easily managed or manipulated. Thus, decisions are made to pay me less than others based on agreeability instead of performance; decisions are made to try and scare me off by offering a job I really want with a pay cut; decisions are made to not hire me. And again, I would argue that ultimately this consistent pattern of injustice is due to my age and disability.

And so here I am. Discouraged and demoralized in my current circumstance, once again sending out job applications, actively hoping to find a workplace with at least some degree of expressive, reciprocal, compassionate, equitable respect and dignity. I have several more years of productive, experienced, knowledgeable, passionate energy to contribute, and I would like to spend that time and energy appreciated.

… … … …

Borrowing some from last week’s post, this week I sent the above to two successive lawyers who (respectively) claimed to speak for “Main Street Americans” and “individuals – not large corporations or insurance companies.” I submitted my plea for help with not much hope for legal recourse. In my limited knowledge and experience I have found most inequity is not illegal, but I was curious about the percentage of these outspoken lawyers’ compassion determined by earnings potential vs. righting wrongs. They did not disappoint; both declined, one clearly stating “this does not sound like illegal discrimination, and I am unable to help you.” If a larger percentage of their concern is their earnings potential, then despite their claims otherwise they are perpetuating the system and don’t really care about Justice. And though I understand that within our system it is challenging to connect dots in an effort to adjudicate just compensation (based on individual performance and peer comparison) and fair wages (big picture opportunity and the ever-widening income gap), to advertise compassion and integrity then act on selfish ambition, is unforgivable. And though my individual circumstance may include more dots closer together (age and disability and excellent performance reviews), to make a case for unjust compensation or unfair wages is made more difficult by our country’s long, proud history of systematized discrimination and inequity. No matter the obvious resulting injustice, to argue against a bureaucracy substantiated and justified by decades and centuries of tradition and belief and/or to try and prove malicious intent on the part of someone who claims they are merely working within the confines of that system – following the rules, is like trying to prove there is no God. When arguing with true believers shepherded by predators, it is an unwinnable argument.

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Dignity and Loyalty

Most days at work, I have a spreadsheet open that contains salary information across the entire organization. I do this so I am constantly reminded of my place and my value according to my employer. This alone is enough to encourage a job hunt. Yet if I make a lateral move (which appears to be my only option), those in power and those readily influenced by power, will see me, (if they see me at all), and portray me as the bad guy. A career should be about dignity, contribution, productivity, just compensation, and in return often loyalty. Today, for most of us, a career is a series of lateral moves in search of those things. And on occasion one will stumble into a lateral move that provides a step up in return for a willingness to be readily influenced by greater power. And in most circumstance one is allowed and even encouraged to contribute productively. But due to the scarcity of just compensation, dignity and loyalty have been stretched and twisted into delusional self-regard, and guilt and fear. And the entire dynamic has become dysfunctional. So we have learned to settle for mutual disgruntlement, and we have learned to hide it from power, in hopes of that step up; until we lose hope and/or we decide that we have had enough. Then we do it all again.

To disguise and distract from this dysfunction, those employers (like our government) who are not totally oblivious, pretend to care by making relatively inconsequential concessions. But from where I sit in my workplace, compassion is flowery, superficial rhetoric and the more it is spewed, the less actual listening, understanding, empathy, connection, respect there is. In the workplace, this intolerance gap widens in proportion to income and power gaps.

As an over-60 senior who six years ago voluntarily gave up dead-end disability income to come back to work full-time both to make a contribution and to perhaps increase earnings potential, what I have learned is that power is afraid of truthfulness and that power hides behind political bureaucracy. Regardless, somehow, I still actively hope. So here I am, this old, disabled guy close to retirement, sending out applications because I don’t want my last work experience to be reflective of the condescending, conventional, arbitrary, intolerant practices that I can now see have been so predominant in this country over my lifetime. Though I have completely given up on just compensation, I would still like to believe that there are workplaces offering at least some degree of expressive, reciprocal, compassionate, equitable respect and dignity. I have several more years of productive, experienced, knowledgeable, passionate energy to contribute, and I would like to spend that time and energy appreciated.

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