I was a tool last night. I know there's a certain amount of politicking in any office, but I had a rude awakening yesterday afternoon, and again at the dinner that evening.
Hiring practices. We're hiring a nurse back for the third time now. We all know she's a waste of good air, but we're hiring her back. Not because we need her (we don't,) nor because we really enjoy her horrible work ethic and her manipulative ways. No, we're hiring her because we're hiring another nurse from the same agency (a GOOD nurse, one I hated to see go from here and am glad to see come back) and this double hire will effectively cripple our rival. I can only assume that after we've hired Slacker, RN back this third time and she proves yet again to be a waste of time and energy and a negative influence on our business we'll fire her, or let her go, or what we're more likely to do, simply cut her amount of visits so short that she'll quit. Is it just me or is this rather vile? Hiring her simply to help cripple a rival, then toss her aside because we KNOW we don't want her again?
Then there was last night. The dinner. Three doctors, five residents (baby doctors, growing into their MDhood,) our Area VP, Director of Ops, two marketers and our Clinical Manager, the Area VP for Business Development (salesman) and a presenter from Corporate. Oh, and a few of us regular employees. We had them outnumbered, and probably could have had a pretty fair pick-up game of baseball.
And then there was the reason I was there--a Case Manager for the Rehab division of the biggest hospital in a two-hundred mile radius had invited me. Let’s call her “X” for the sake of a joke.** I can only assume that otherwise I'd have zero reason to be there. When you're showing off a new piece of Electronic Medical Reporting software to prospective clients who are also doctors the last thing you need is one of the office staff there. Nothing against me, but ordinarily I'd play the same role there as a bicycle in an oyster bed--maybe easy to look at but certainly not useful to oyster farmers.
This lady likes the way I answer the phone, you see. And that confuses me. I always use the same voice and phraseology when answering, am always polite and I try to be at least a little bit cheerful. And after I find out that it's someone like a hospital's case manager or some other referral source I try to be at least a little nicer. I mean let's be honest, people like her are the main source for our referrals--without them we'd lose 3/4 of our business. Naturally when I recognise someone who is a referral giver I've always allowed a little extra glee to slip into my voice when I hear "Hey, this is so and so Case Manager from Veryverybig Hospital, we've got a referral for you." I mean, they're like customers--they're giving us their business, why NOT let them know we’re happy to be given money and work from them?
So anyway, this lady asked everyone involved in the planning of this rather upper-level supper/meeting if I was going to be there, and I was given very little choice in the matter--either be there or be there. So, I went there. And it wasn't until much later that I started to realise just how much of a tool I was to my boss and the bosses boss and so forth. It was my role to keep this lady buttered up, to keep her smiling and happy. I was to be the sugar to help the medicine go down, if you'll excuse the Poppinsese.
It wasn't a bad role as far as gigolo roles go. I ended up sitting beside her at one corner of the “U” of tables, and honestly she was like most medical people I’ve met--friendly, relaxed and easy to talk to. And honestly she seemed quite able to hold up both ends of our conversation all by herself as long as I made the occasional nod or small noise to let her know I was still following her, so I did. Listening is easy. And by the end of the night, after desert had been consumed and most of the medical folk were making their way to the door I did so also, said my goodnights, shook a few hands and was ready to make good my escape when the marketer scooted over to me, hugged my neck and stage-whispered “Thank you for babysitting X.” I smiled and made some little noncommittal remark but it sort of made me feel bad. Then my AVP said the same thing only in different terms, and it really drove the point home. I didn't hear until later that the marketer and X hate each other's guts, so I was doubly used there, to rub it in X's face.
So now my question to myself is this: was the ONLY reason I was there because I’ve got a work ethic and try to give my job my all, even when I don’t often enjoy it anymore? Am I wrong to feel pleased to have been invited even though it was at the sole request of a 50something, lonely nurse? Or do I just need to accept that I’ve got at least a small knack for dealing with people and enjoy the free dinners it entails?
* Best if done in Mongo's voice from Mel Brook's "Blazing Saddles."
** I call her “X” because that’s what Nero Wolfe used to call his clients when he didn’t want to name them, and a doctor we were hosting could have BEEN Nero Wolfe if only he’d been wearing a yellow shirt or tie and had Archie Goodwin standing behind him. I spent the entire meal waiting for him to start pursing his lips, or for him to buzz Fritz for some beer, or to shout at Archie to call Saul Panzer.