10 Jul When did business stop us being humans? (WARNING – not for the squeamish!)
I won’t name the organisation, venue and individual because that would be unfair and detract from the context of this discussion. And I know you will ask, so she is fine now, thank you so much for asking.
Whilst celebrating my mother in law’s (can’t say the number) birthday on Saturday with an extended family day out at a beautiful venue in London, my eight year old daughter dismounted a rope swing with a solid wooden seat and stumbled backwards until she fell gently onto the bark chip. As she got to her feet and dusted herself down the swing hit her hard on the forehead on its return journey because of its weight and momentum and she was distracted. An accident in the truest form.
The cracking sound of the contact haunts me still, plus the scream of pain and her face of shock and despair, as she sought comfort and answers from me and my wife as to what had just happened and why she was cupping the blood streaming from the wound.
After our initial shock our brains engaged and we calmed her down and attended the wound and quickly realised it needed urgent hospital attention. We had all travelled by train for a multi-site day out so an ambulance was called. It was going to take an hour to arrive as it was a busier day in London than general, which wasn’t acceptable to us so I carried her to the main entrance to seek a first aid kit and the venue’s best advice for transportation, e.g. them, taxi, bus, whatever etc.
What followed doesn’t sit well with me. A lady at reception did her best with the first aid kit but there were three first aiders in our party so we eventually took over. A gentleman staff member immediately suggested he would run us to hospital because it was only 1.6 miles away, for which I thanked him greatly. This would have reduced the eventual arrival time of my daughter to hospital by approximately 20 to 25 minutes via taxi, or over an hour by ambulance, which for a head injury could make all the difference.
However, when the duty manager arrived I saw him processes the situation from a business perspective. I could just see it going on cognitively. He was hesitant, he didn’t like the suggestion that a staff member took an injured and shocked eight year old on the fifteen minute return journey (for him). He was completely preoccupied with dealing with the incident from a corporate and employer perspective.
He said he didn’t think them taking her to hospital was a good idea and suggested we would be better off getting a taxi. We just accepted because we knew he had made up his mind and we needed to make the right swift decisions for our daughter. He started calling cab firms; one hour was the response from the first cab firm, then fifteen minutes from the second.
He then focussed on completing the obligatory incident form and asked me and my wife to fill in the remaining details and sign whilst we were preoccupied tending to our injured and shocked daughter. With hindsight I would have reacted differently to him and will do next time, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and my only thought was for my daughter’s wellbeing. That incident form filling process would have been delayed somewhat by me!
So what was going through his mind? Was it that by losing a team member they would not have enough employees on site to meet what their operating procedures or insurances stipulate? Was it that by taking my daughter they were in some way accepting some form of liability? Was it a lack of incident training and he panicked? Did he need that form filled in because that was what he knew his employer expected and potentially needed to absolve them and him of any responsibility? Or were a range of other things going on from his perspective?
Don’t get me wrong I do get some of the above but not all. From my perspective, when an injured eight year old girl is in distress and pain, the human thing to do is surely to get her in the nearest and most accessible vehicle and take her to the safety of hospital. Nothing else should matter apart from the welfare of that little girl.
I know I am biased but if I was that duty manager and all of the business related thoughts started running through my head I would have made, and would always make, a different choice. I would choose human over business. I would get my No.2 to take over and would get her to hospital, personally and pronto.
I would then make sure the extended party were supported and that every possible way of keeping everyone updated was in place to make a harrowing experience for all a little more comfortable.
I would then deal with the business. If I was criticised or even disciplined for my actions I would have defended them by saying I was human and my instinct was to support a fellow human in distress. That is it for me. Any negative repercussions would be met with me considering their values compared to mine and probably lead me to finding an alternative employer.
Because on the flip side, my actions would positively impact on the lives of everyone immediately involved in the incident. The child, the parents, the extended family, the employees, the other guests witnessing the human face of the business.
So this may divide the room, but I’m confident with my position. There is no business case I am aware of for not prioritising the welfare of a child over the business in an emergency situation. The one thing I would have to swallow however is that if by treating one child, it put the lives of others at high risk, which in this situation was absolutely not the case.
Lily had her wound glued at A&E and is sporting two of those special plasters to support the glue to work its magic. She has an inch cut which will unfortunately scar according to the nurse. She was a very brave girl and we are tremendously pleased it wasn’t worse.
I would welcome your views because I am genuinely concerned that during an emergency, some seem to hesitate and endure conflict over putting the human before the business, and as a consequence, lives could be at risk.