Mind Matters — Care in the Workplace

At six, I wished to be Cinderella’s godmother. At sixty-four, I still wouldn’t mind a magic wand. What would I change? It would be little things that would change the world. It really wouldn’t take much. We make such a grand deal out of what we can’t do, yet if we made little changes wherever we are in whatever moment we’re in, what then?

I hear stories where the scripts could so easily be re-written—no need for a magic wand. Recently, I heard a story about a nursing assistant who works hard at her job taking care of other people’s needs. One day, her father dies in a tragic accident, and her world falls apart—as it is wont to do in traumatic grief. She has difficulty returning to work and then she has her own mishap with a bad fall—another thing that occurs when we are pre-occupied and under stress. We are prone to injuries and accidents. I know this one first hand!

So what does her employer do? Fire her. This woman who always worked hard, has her life unravel even more. Just when she needs health insurance for her injury, she loses it. You can, with minimal imagination, figure out what happens next. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, the next thing you know you either can’t pay the mortgage or the rent.

What if the story were different? What would happen if employers, especially in the health care field who should know better, would show understanding and empathy? What if they had said to this dedicated caregiver, “it looks like your grief is overwhelming you, how about we help you find counseling,” or “how about a leave of absence while we keep your health insurance going?” “How can we help you, who have helped so many for so many years?” Instead the workplace often regresses into a Charles Dickens universe of unredemptive and reactionary Scrooges.

What if the workplace Scrooges could meet their Christmas ghosts in the present moment rather than out of the past? Script change now instead of repentance at the end of the story? Surely, that would be a lot more helpful to individuals such as this nursing assistant.

So what if I did have a magic wand? I’d wipe away the bottom line mentality of the workplace and replace it with respect and care for the employees.

There are some companies that understand that such positive regard for their employees creates a good environment not only for the worker, but also for the clients and customers they serve. Would that more workplaces take Charles Dickens to heart.