Sunday, January 17, 2010

Whistle-blowing - To Thine Own Self Be True

  For most of us, what we do for a living affects so much of how we feel about life. If you sell out at work, do things to get ahead and betray co-workers, it takes its toll on your soul. I don't know any CEO's of gigantic corporations, but my prejudiced view is that many of those on top did things to others to climb the ladder that changed who they were.  I believe it's human nature to rationalize what we do so that we do not own up to the consequences of our actions.
   People compromising values happens not only in the workplace, but in all types of social settings.  We are social beings and how we interact with each other can present challenges. People act differently in groups than individually.  Would there have been the slaughter in Rwanda if it were not for mass hysteria? I am constantly reminded of how important it is for me to  have the support of other human beings.  I have done things in my life of which I am not proud to "get along" or to advance myself in a group.  Life is like high school for many of us, who want to be part of the cool kids or be in the popular group.  My mother, who is approaching 80 years old, and I talk about how evenly elderly woman can be "mean girls."  That is why it is so refreshing when a true rebel, a true whistleblower, comes along.
   It is really hard to stand up to authority and speak out.  Whistleblowers oftentimes risk everything, not just their jobs, but also their friends, and sometimes their families.  It takes a lot of courage to speak up.  As I write this, I think of one of my clients, a woman who is dear to me because she risked and lost so much.   This woman was a leader, and she sacrificed so much.  I am not going to mention her name, or even give her a pseudonym, because to do so seems like it would trivialize or cheapen what she did.
   My client is a nurse.  She, like all of the nurses I know, went into nursing because she wanted to tend to and care for others.  A good nurse is not only smart, caring and efficient, but a good nurse is also a stickler for details.   My client was a very good nurse.  My client really cared about her patients.  My client cared about her friends.  Her friends were nurses, too.  The friends really cared about their patients, too.  Unfortunately, the hospital where they all worked did not care so much about their patients.
    After very contentious litigation, tens of depositions, scores of sleepless nights, the case was resolved.  However, the story did not end there for my client.  Her husband worked for the same company that she did.   Her marriage of over twenty years deteriorated and failed, leading to a divorce even more contentious than the lawsuit. She vacated her lovely home and left it to her husband.  In just over two years, my client lost the job she loved, the home she loved and the marriage she thought was secure.  Did she help her co-workers and the patients of the hospital?  Undoubtedly.  But at what personal cost?  
  I hope the story does not end here.  I hope that my client gets some real justice for her.  She has the love of her children and her former co-workers, but I hope it does not stop there.  One of my other clients is working at another area hospital where I visited with my daughter who suffers from debilitating headaches.  My client was my daughter's nurse and she was wonderful.  My daughter's care was superb and our nurse, my former client, told her co-workers that we were like family to her. I felt very good about that.
   Next year, at the annual celebration concerning the case, I hope to see my first client flourishing.  This year it was hard because I did not know how badly the divorce and ensuing litigation had been.  This woman is a hero.  I hope next year she can know that.  It is not easy to be the one to stand up and say, "No more."  I hope my client realizes the good she has done and can someday look back on this episode of her life without the pain in her heart.

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