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Posts tagged ‘Honesty Is the Best Policy’

Dr. Jerk Teaches a Lesson

This is a little preface to the insights, musings, rantings, thoughtful review, report I give below.  Okay, so being truthful is not always that easy, but—when it comes right down to it—I still tend to agree with Sylvester the Cat:


Dr. Jerk Teaches a Lesson

Maybe I am naïve.  I tend to expect everyone I encounter to be honest, up front, ethical.  As an educational leader, I value those traits immensely; without them, effective leadership and overall stewardship of programs or institutions cannot take place.  Oh, I have been disappointed as colleagues break the rules for their own gain, tell less than the truth about a situation, or do whatever it takes to get what they want even if that means bending the rules or ignoring what’s right. But I still expect people to be up front and ethical, at least until they prove otherwise.

Last week I was forced to deal with someone who was not living up to my expectations that people are basically honest.  To make matters worse, it was a doctor.  I don’t know why, but I expect even more from other professionals, especially doctors.  Aren’t doctors supposed to “do no harm”? I am being a bit melodramatic, since the situation was not life-threatening.  But it did involve my dad and has been on my mind, so I thought I would share the matter on my blog.

When the situation first started to unfold, I muttered under my breath, “What an asshole!”  But in the technical sense, at least at it applies to leadership and work situations, the doctor in question did not meet the asshole criteria.  Yes, there are such criteria!  They are presented in a great book by Robert Sutton:  The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t (2007).  According to those rules*, the true asshole degrades and demeans colleagues on a regular basis.  I don’t know the guy involved that well, so I guess I better just label him an unethical jerk!


My dad lives in a convalescent hospital—and is doing just great.  Since a major surgery several months ago, he has been under hospice care.  The hospice care givers come several times a week to augment the care given by the facility.  The two staffs work well together and keep me informed of any changes with my dad. My dad’s primary care doctor is part of the equation, visiting Dad once a month and being the first contact with the hospice staff if any needs or problems surface.  There is another group associated with this well-working team:  a medical group of doctors who are on call, as needed, if things go wrong and Dad needs immediate care and intervention from someone other than his main doctor.  They were part of the team that made the original recommendation that Dad be placed on hospice, but since then, their services have not really been needed.  Dad’s day-to-day care is seen to by the facility and hospice staff and his primary care doctor.


The other day I received a call from Dr. Jerk. [Not his real name.]  He reminded me we had talked before when getting my dad placed in hospice.  During his call, he announced that Dad needed to be moved under the care of a different hospice group.  I asked why, and he simply said that it was being recommended by Dad’s doctors.  I asked whether Dad’s primary care doctor would stay with him even if this move took place.  Dr. Jerk said, “Yes, he would as part of the team.”  That tipped me off a bit that something was not quite right; Dad’s primary care doctor is a woman.  I asked further questions, and the guy reluctantly said that, “Well, you could stay with the original hospice, but the doctors would no longer be involved since they were no longer under contract with that hospice.”  I said I needed to talk to my sister (we share power of attorney) as well as my dad’s primary care doctor and the original hospice, but I would get back to him with a decision.

Okay.  So the truth seems to be that in order for Dr. Jerk and his colleagues to keep being paid for their consulting relationship with my dad via his hospice, my dad needed to be under the care of a hospice that they had a relationship with.  So their version of the truth was that Dad needed to change hospices—which is not quite accurate.  If I had not asked questions, and just signed the papers as I was being encouraged to do, they would continue to be paid.  If things ended there, this matter would not be running around in my head as much as it is.

When I made some phone calls to clarify things, other deceptions became evident:

  • My dad’s primary doctor knew nothing about the change and would stay with my dad no matter what hospice he was associated with. She is not directly associated with Dr. Jerk and his team, but she works with them since she is my dad’s doctor—as she would work with any hospice and their extended staff.
  • The original hospice would not give details, but they had opted not to renew the contract with the doctor’s group in question.
  • Apparently, Dr. Jerk is not a medical doctor.  He has a doctorate of some sort, so he can call himself “doctor.”  But then I can too, and I know nothing about medicine.  Given the medical context within which this guy works, most will assume his “doctor title” equates with M.D. His actual credentials are not bad; he is a nurse practitioner.  I trust and value nurse practitioners.  But why not be up front about his training and title?
  • The original hospice said they had heard from a few other patients with questions about this suggested change being raised by Dr. Jerk and his group.  Many of the elderly are signing over care without asking questions because their doctors told them to.  The patients do not really realize that the change would remove equipment ordered by the original hospice until the new place ordered it again.  And that the weekly caregivers they had built a relationship with would change as well.
  • When I talked to the social worker at my dad’s facility, she acknowledged that the hospital worked with both hospices. She said good things about the original one my dad is with, but was silent on the other one.  By the end of our conversation, it was clear she thought the decision to keep my dad with the original hospice was a good one.
  • Dr. Jerk had Dad sign a transfer order!  He did that either before he talked to me and said nothing about it, or after I said no decision yet and had not gotten back to him.  Either scenario is unacceptable!  BTW:  I got back to his office with my firm decision not to change Dad’s hospice in less than 24 hours, so his actions were not because it had been days of no action on my part.  Also, he included my dad’s primary care doctor on the form as part of the doctors requesting the transfer; she knew nothing about it. My dad, of course, does not remember signing anything.
  • More paperwork had to be processed to keep Dad with his original hospice because Dr. Jerk had already submitted the transfer order with dad’s inappropriate signature; again, my sister and I have power of attorney, a fact Dr. Jerk knew because we talked about it.  Given that paper was on file, the original hospice had to file papers to keep things as they were.
  • Dr. Jerk also told the new hospice to call me to set up an appointment to sign papers. They did the next morning before I had a chance to call Dr. Jerk back with my decision.  I love how so many people were having to waste time regarding this matter.

I know this is not a huge incident.  And everything is fine for my dad, so all is well.  I also know that part of the reason this matter has been running around my head is because a more serious problem I am addressing also involves lies and half-truths and unethical manipulations.  It will be great when that problem is finally resolved, hopefully within a few months. But with this matter, it seems clear to me that Dr. Jerk was trying to use his patients’ general trust of doctors to get changes made, so his medical group would still get paid.  I also know Dad’s original hospice would want to keep patients, so they too would continue to be paid.  Everyone’s motives include something that benefits them.  It is how the matter was addressed that bothers me.  This whole thing confirms for me a distinction made by Terry Pearce in Leading Out Loud (2003):

Your ability to manage is measured by what you know and what you get done, but your ability to lead is measured not only by your competence but also by your ability to communicate who you are and what you stand for.


I firmly stand by my conviction that honesty and integrity coupled with a strong commitment to moral and ethical behavior are needed to keep everyday life sane, humane.  The professional arena demands those qualities even more than everyday life.  If I cannot trust that someone will not manipulate the truth to suit his needs and continue being paid, how could I trust any medical intervention he might provide at a later date?  It seems that my mom was right after all:  Honesty is the best policy.  Therefore, I need to continue to strive to be honest and ethical in all my dealings and to willingly associate only with those who do so as well. Also, it is important to remember to always ask questions, especially of those in positions of authority.  And to watch what you say and how you say it—those words do give a glimpse into your values and intentions.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 “Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”  Will Rogers

“When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses.”  Shirley Chisholm

“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and a body ain’t got no business doing wrong when he ain’t ignorant and knows better.”   Mark Twain

“Would you want to do business with a person who was 99% honest?”  Sidney Madwed

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

*If you are working with a real asshole, you might be able to address the problem.  Robert Sutton wrote a great little book—The No Asshole Rule—that delineates the actions assholes routinely take.  The majority of his book, however, gives tips and tools on how to implement and enforce the basics needed to weed out the assholes. To help you assess if you are working and/or living with assholes, here is what Sutton calls “The Dirty Dozen.”

The Dirty Dozen

 Common Everyday Actions that Assholes Use

  1. Personal insults
  2. Invading one’s “personal territory”
  3. Uninvited physical contact
  4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and nonverbal
  5. “Sarcastic jokes” and “teasing” used as insult delivery systems
  6. Withering e-mail flames
  7. Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims
  8. Pubic shaming or “status degradation” rituals
  9. Rude interruptions
  10. Two-faced attacks
  11. Dirty looks
  12. Treating people as if they were invisible

If Facts Are Dead, Can Truth Be Far Behind?

A friend sent me an email today with a link to an article about facts and truth-telling.  She got me thinking:

Honesty is the best policy.  That adage has always been my mantra:  telling the truth is the best way to go through life.  And not just because—as Mom always said ala Mark Twain’s wisdom—it is easier to remember the truth than whatever lies you concocted.  For one thing, the 10 Commandments tell us not to steal, kill or bear false witness, among other things, of course.  For another, truth-telling is very American:  We vow to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when giving testimony in court.  In school, we teach students not to plagiarize and stress the importance of scientific inquiry.  Telling the truth should be easy, given how often someone says, “Cross my heart and hope to die.”

On Dragnet (remember that great old TV show?), Sgt. Joe Friday would always say, “Just the facts, Ma’am.” And the viewing public applauded!  But if we can believe Wikipedia, whose very existence raises other qualms about what is really true, that phrase was never really uttered by Sgt. Friday.  What he really said was, “All we want are the facts.”  Close, but I would have sworn he said the earlier phrase—that is my truth!  [If you are interested, the truth behind this confusion is explained on Snopes.Com, whose subtitle is “Rumor has it.”]

This discrepancy demonstrates that the truth is not so easy to find.  There is always a difference between appearance and reality, memories can be fuzzy, and facts cannot always be verified.  The illusiveness of truth and honesty in our everyday lives is a given, a fact so to speak.  Just watch commercials, especially the political ads that will be assaulting us all soon as the presidential election looms closer and closer.  I expect you will conclude as I have that we should all worry about truth, justice, and the American Way—and how we can be certain we know the truth.

The final conclusion, I guess, is that each of us is on our own to know and understand the truth, no matter how hard that can be.  We trust our memories, experiences, and direct observations—as well as certain people in our lives.  In the past, we could count on facts helping us out in our search for truth.  But that option is jeopardized now that a new truth is out there:  Facts are dead!  You can read all about it in Rex Huppke’s column  “I will miss facts” posted on post-gazette.com.  You will have to read about this tragedy on your own, but maybe there is some hope.  Rex ends this column/obituary by noting that “Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion.”  If Mulder is right, “The truth is out there!” But from my view, it is getting harder and harder to find.

SOME QUESITONS FOR YOU:  What truths do you hold self-evident?  How do you assess reality?   Do you go through life telling the truth, or do little white lies help save the day?


“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.  (Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.)”  Mark Twain

 “She never lied, but she may not always have told the whole truth.”  Said about Erika Berger in The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo

 “The best measure of a man’s honesty isn’t his income tax return.  It’s the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.”    Arthur C. Clarke

 “Speak the truth, but leave immediately after.”  Slovenian Proverb

“I never did give them hell.  I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.”  Harry S. Truman

“Statistics are like lampposts: they are good to lean on, but they don’t shed much light.”  Robert Storm-Petersen

“What is the difference between unethical and ethical advertising?  Unethical advertising uses falsehoods to deceive the public; ethical advertising uses truth to deceive the public.”  Vihjalmur Stefansson

“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”  Rene Descartes

“There are three kinds of lies:  lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  Benjamin Disreali

“The truth is more important than facts.”  Frank Lloyd Wright

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”   Aldous Huxley

“We want the facts to fit the preconceptions. When they don’t, it is easier to ignore the facts than to change the preconceptions.”   Jessamyn West

 “They wanted facts.  Facts!  They demanded facts from him, as if facts could explain anything.”  Joseph Conrad

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