The Rest Home and The Corporation – A Tale of Two Meetings.

25 Mar

restcorp

Tuesday March 15th 2016 proved to be an interesting day.

I attended two meetings in 4 hours. The first, at the super smart boardroom of a leading New Zealand building corporation. The second, at the dark somewhat dingy staffroom of a local rest home.

I’ll describe the second experience first.

A dear patient –I have known her for over 30 years – was causing concern. In her mid 50s, she has a complex and chronic medical condition which has seen her institutionalised in homes such as this for all her adult life.

The young and the middle aged, for all the wonderful help from the appallingly  paid staff of rest homes, are not well-catered for in our small country. This unfortunate group, often severely disabled, are not co-dependent by choice, and the balance between safety restrictions, staff responsibility and independence is a difficult one for all concerned. Tensions and conflicts can mount, and staff can feel they are in a no-win situation.  The middle aged resident can feel frustrated and controlled.

This was the background to the meeting – I was there to help ease tensions, and give insights into her condition.

As I entered the staff room,  this tension was palpable. About a dozen caregivers and therapists, many far from their countries of birth, were seated haphazardly on chairs and around the old functional table. Some aired their frustrations – I felt they expected me to be  so ‘pro-patient’ as to take her side exclusively. When this proved not to be the case  -I tried simply to take a solution based approach – all of us relaxed.

After the airing, there was the caring. Despite the problems and the obvious struggles, each voiced their concern for the woman in question. Their empathy shone through these very real difficulties. There were then some tears from softening eyes. Suspicious stares turned to knowing glances. Smiles emerged.  I felt warmed and privileged.

Although no tangible solutions were reached, we all agreed that after a coming-together such as this, all would feel supported, and we expected that this would be reflected in less frustration and more joyful, fruitful interactions with this ‘younger’ resident.

True human qualities were on display – hard work, empathy, caring, compassion, humility, honesty and vulnerability. A struggle to give and act perfectly within an imperfect poorly-funded system.  A perfect metaphor for humanity’s challenge to balance ethics and morality with practicality–and just maybe the very reason why we are all here in this form on this stunning planet.

As I left the meeting, I reflected on a very different experience at a meeting just a few hours earlier.

It has been well and frequently stated over the past decade and a half that if one was to ‘personality profile’ the modern corporation, more often than not the conclusion would be that the personality was psychopathic. Not that all corporate executives are psychopaths – far from it – but that collectively in corporate form they often ‘tick all the boxes’ for this predatory state of being.

This brief video clip from the 2004 award winning documentary ‘The Corporation’shows this very succinctly.

The company board room was smart and the atmosphere was cold. The positioning of the directors was planned for confrontation. The anger was insulting. There was little room for compromise. Facts were ignored. Fear abound and vulnerability was denied.  Real people skills – for example, warmth, consideration, listening, attention to personal boundaries –were absent. However, for at least two of the three executives, I knew from previous more relaxed informal meetings that this behaviour was no more than an act -either deliberate or hypnotically induced over years. I wasn’t sure exactly which.

As we rose to leave (and as with my earlier meeting, without a tangible solution) there were the prescribed handshakes. These were all as steely and as unforgiving as the look in their eyes. No understanding it seemed of the immense power of softness.

My only personal goal for both of these meetings was to be myself – imperfect, confident, vulnerable, but hopefully smart and solution focused. Trish, who was beside me for the first meeting, was all of these (though, as ever, perfect to my eyes.)

As we left the board room, we bid farewell to the smiling young  woman sitting behind the reception desk. Embedded in the desk’s panel were several large glistening golden medals vividly displaying to all-comers and goers the company’s proven excellence.

On close inspection,  they all appeared to have been self-awarded.

As I left the rest home three hours later, there were no gold medals on display in the dark corridor.

Just the tell-tale scent signalling bladders past their functional best – and a warm, warm glow in my heart.

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