This is part three of a series about Ruth who was seventy-six when she enrolled in hospice services with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Ruth was a retired LPN who found her niche as an inpatient rehab nurse. In Southern Ohio vernacular, Ruth was a “catbird”. According to the Audubon Society, a catbird is plain but has a lot of personality; it has “boatloads of attitude, a quirky personality that makes it a perennial favorite” I think that pretty much describes Ruth. Ruth loved to tease and taunt; and she was a gambler at heart. She loved going to the casino at Cross Lanes and to the gambling boats; and she “preferred the slots”.
Ruth confessed, “I have a reputation as a big mouth; not really, I just say what I think. The rehab unit was the most consistent place I ever worked. We had meetings and there were always complaints between the shifts; but they were addressed in the meetings. Coworkers came complaining to me about things but they wouldn’t say anything in the team meetings. Regina, our manager, would ask, ‘Does anybody have any suggestions about what we can do better?’ But nobody would say anything. I would look around and think, ‘Is there anybody else here!’ Then I would say, ‘I heard …. ’; but I would never mention anyone by name. People talk and complain among themselves but you never change anything just talking among yourselves.
“Once I went to Regina and told her, ‘I might be off base but I just have to tell you something. Since you’ve been going to all those management meetings you’ve changed; and you’ve changed for the worse. You never come out and say ‘Hi’. You used to come out and say, ‘The kids have been….’ The only time you talk to us is to tell us about what we didn’t do or what we need to do. You never go out and eat with us anymore.” Then Regina asked me, ‘Do you really think so?’ and she thanked me. Then a few days later she came to me and said, ‘I’ve given some thought to what you said, and you’re right’. Regina is the best manager I’ve ever had.”
Words can’t describe how much I admire and respect Regina for being approachable and being willing to “stand corrected”. What a model of humility, integrity and maturity, especially for someone in a leadership position! And I also admire Ruth for caring enough to give it.
It’s been ten years since Ruth passed away; therefore I met with Regina about three weeks ago to corroborate and collaborate to write this series. Regina smiled as she fondly reminisced about Ruth, as if they had just been together the day before. Regina reflected, “Ruth wasn’t afraid to say what she thought. As a manager you need people like Ruth. Sometimes I would go to her and ask, ‘Ruth what would you do?’ and she would tell me. And Ruth was so funny and witty. She was always getting the staff laughing. I really miss her.”
Doug Murren, in his book, “Criticism: Friend or Foe” (2003), points out that we all need criticism or correction; no one is perfect and we all wonder off course at times. I’m reminded of the chorus from a “seventies” contemporary Christian song, “Every now and then I need correction, like an axe I need the grinding stone, and I know it’s all for my protection, to keep me from going on my own.” But it’s not easy or comfortable to either give or receive criticism is it? And whether criticism is “Friend or Foe”, depends upon the attitude and intent of the one offering it.
Doug Murren suggests that criticism can be either constructive or toxic. The purpose of constructive criticism isn’t to ventilate, to give someone a piece of your mind, to get even, to put someone in their place or to rake them over the coals. The purpose of constructive criticism is to correct, instruct, restore and promote personal and organizational health and growth.
Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help”
So before spouting off, let’s make sure we have a “right to criticize”. Let’s take Jesus’ advice and, “First remove the beam from your own eye so that you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt 7: 1-5) And let’s heed the words of the Apostle Paul, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1). And let’s remember the words of wise King Solomon, “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:5-6)
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 740-356-2525