Warmth

My mind is a Pachinko machine; my brain fatigued. Add to this the environmental distractions, such as breakfast, and it’s not conducive to focus. Today, it’s scrambled eggs and dry muffins—sans jam or butter, only some whipped substitute unfit for human consumption,

My prompt for writing the recent post on Professionalism was my reaction to the hospital staff and their demeanour—or as a colleague suggested in a comment, decorum. Perhaps I can remain focused on the words on this page as I type.

For service staff, warmth is a necessary ingredient of professionalism. This is particularly true for persons in the healing arts. The top indicator for pursuing legal action in a medical malpractice suit is the doctor’s bedside manner—personality and disposition—, whether the patient feels a personal connexion—a human connexion.

My experience in hospital is that the Medical Doctors have been hit or miss in the department—more miss than hit. I can even recall the names of the memorable ones. I suppose were I to be ill-treated, I’d remember as well. Here, it’s either treated nicely as a human or otherwise as an object in an assembly line. Thankfully, there have been no mistreatments or abuse.

The Registered Nurses had a better warmth ratio. Asking my circle of family, friends, and associates, this seems to be the general consensus. The rest of the staff were somewhere in between.

This warmth or human connexion extends beyond healthcare and to the service industry where human-to-human contact is made, even where that connexion is virtual—perhaps more so in order to bridge the distance. In my experience, the human factor tends to fall more at or below the level of the Medical Doctors. Any warmth is accidental. I am not saying that the people themselves lack compassion—though that could be the case. Rather, I am saying that they are moulded into automatons by the systems they are part of. It saps people of their humanity.

I started writing a post titled Bureaucracy is Violence, but I never completed it because I got lost in research. In a nutshell, bureaucracy is a Procrustean bed. I’ll leave it there for now. If you know, you know. Meantime, rage against the machine.

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

— Dylan Thomas

Professionalism

We hear about professionalism all the time–being professional, acting professional–, but we may not know what it means or its origin. Many people might describe it as an attitude or disposition, perhaps a way of dress. “She wasn’t acting very professional; he wasn’t dressed professionally,” are common utterances. These are subjective statements, so let’s see if we can determine where this term came from and maybe how it’s used in the contemporary world. 

The root word, profess, derives from a Latin root that means ‘to take a vow’. More specifically, it means ‘to declare publicly’ or ‘to declare openly’. It’s a religious term akin to fealty.

From profess, we get to profession, which in Old French means ‘vows taken upon entering a religious order’. This was extended from theology to include law and medicine and then sciences and education. Appropriately enough, prostitution was added to the mix. By this time, the meaning had evolved to ‘occupation one professes to be skilled in or a calling’. This is where we jump to professionalism, which is where we are today. The bar is a bit lower in sports and entertainment, or perhaps the skilled portion is assumed. In these domains, it is meant to separate paid from unpaid (read: amateur) participants. For the record, an amateur is a lover of something. These people are in it for passion rather than money. The cynic in me says that some amateurs do it for the love of the game and the hope for a lottery payout, shooting for the big leagues.

The question remains how do we go from being skilled in something to the appearance of being skilled. In my experience, some people would prefer to work with a minimally-skilled person who looks the part than a skilled person who doesn’t. Certainly, one might argue that they prefer both, but we can’t always get what we want.

Cultural Diversity

Humans seem to be hard-wired to prefer in-groups over out-groups, family and tribe over outsiders. In the business world, we hear about corporate culture. But these days, diversity is all the rage. Companies strive to convince the world that that have diverse and inclusive cultures, but what does this mean? Is there such an animal as a diverse culture? And how does one balance the familiarity of in-group homogeneity versus out-group heteronormativity?

you can’t spell culture without ‘cult’

In corporate-speak, there is the concept of cultural fitness. Afterall, we want efficient and productive humans and processes? People who don’t fit this mould are disruptive, right? So, we are justified in excluding people from the group, right? Remember, you can’t spell culture without ‘cult’.

Although the United States brand themselves as a cultural melting pot, this is only partially correct, and mostly in more populous areas, and even this occurs in pockets.

Diversity—in hiring and otherwise—is only accepted if it is along approved superficial dimensions—skin colour, national origin, sex, religious orientation, maybe gender, perhaps some latitude around lifestyle choices. But more substantial diversity need not apply. They are interested in hiring conforming normies. The gay guy is OK, so long as he toes the rest of the line. That woman: ditto. That Muslim: same. That black person: so long as s/he acts white in public.

everything needs to distil down to the white male ethic

Performatively, they’ll accept the diversity proponent as a PR prop. This person is proof that they hire [target group]. This person broadcasts how s/he can wear their cultural garb, bring cultural dishes to potlucks, put up posters and advertise about support groups outside of work. But in the end, everything needs to distil down to the white male ethic.

Talk about work-life balance is fine, so long as work gets the upper hand. You need to be able to talk about charity, but you need to be motivated by money and status. There are exceptions to this motivation, say, public health and healthcare, education, and so on, but the boundaries in these professions are narrow, too. Not acting ‘professional’ is a key criticism. So, if your diversity counters some perceived professionalism, your diversity is not welcome.

not acting ‘professional’ is a key criticism

If the company hires people who routinely put in 60 hours for 40 hours of salary, they are not interested in the person with boundaries, insisting on 40 hours of work for 40 hours of salary. They aren’t interested in people who might question the ethics of the company’s business practices. Companies aren’t generally interested in rebels.

You need to be Sartre’s waiter. You’ve got a role to perform. In fact, you are evaluated specifically how well you perform that role. So, whilst you may be a singing waiter or a dancing waitress, your boundaries aren’t much broader than this. It’s easy for an observer to dismiss the call for diversity. S/he’s a waiter, right? Why should I expect anything different to that? And this is what locks in a lack of diversity.

DISCLAIMER: This ended up more of a meandering rant, but I’m distracted and out of time. And so it goes…