Ethics & Professionalism

“Kenapa Dr. Afiza tak jadi MO medical or surgical? Dr. Afiza nampak macam doktor yang patut duduk dalam department yang busy.” One of my HOs had asked me.

So, I told her that I was supposed to be an ENT doctor after my housemanship. But I wrote so many letters to the hospital director to refuse my posting in ENT. In my last letter I had said that “putting me  in ENT would be a waste of time for me and for everyone. It would be a waste of time for ENT department to train me when they know I am going out to psychiatry one day.” After that last letter, I think even ENT department would think twice before they take me as their MO. When I wrote that letter, I imagined that the ENT specialist would feel “dah budak ni cakap terang-terang tak mau masuk department aku, aku pun tak mau terhegeh-hegeh nak ambil dia”. Hahah. But I wrote that blunt sentence anyway. (Because I don’t give mixed signals. Hahha) The purpose of my last letter to the hospital director was  to state in the boldest possible manner that I’d rather be in the busy A&E where I could learn a variety of cases, than be placed in a highly specialized department such as ENT when I KNEW I would be going out anyway. It WOULD be a waste of time placing me there.

I remember thinking back then that if I couldn’t get into psychiatry, I would be happy being in  the busy A&E. I actually enjoyed my A&E posting when I was a HO. No matter how busy it gets, you can get off immediately once your shift is over and there is no on-call!  So yeah, I don’t like heavy on-calls like the ones they have in  medical or surgical. I have other interests in life such as reading, writing and hiking that I really don’t think I would be happy being too busy as a doctor. But I can do A&E. You just need to be fast in A&E and no matter how busy it gets, once your shift is over, you are done! Tomorrow is another day with another set of patients.

Maybe my HO’s observation that I should be in a busy department sprung from the fact that I have a type A personality. I want things to be done fast. I walk fast, I talk fast ,I drive fast… I even eat fast. In fact, my brain is always busy trying to think about making  things even faster. For example, I never park my car on the porch of my house because I wouldn’t be able to get moving fast. If I park my car inside the porch, I will have to open the gate first, then get into the car and reverse my car out of the porch, then I have to get out of the car and close the gate, and then I have to get back inside my car and only then I can start moving. See how troublesome and time-consuming it is!

Instead, I just park my car directly outside my front gate. So that when I want to go somewhere, all I have to do is get inside my car and just drive away. It’s more efficient and less time-consuming.

If I ask for something to be done, I want it to be done fast, especially if the completion of my task depends on YOU doing your task, FIRST. If your work doesn’t affect my work, then I won’t mind one way or another. I am pretty easy going actually (I think, haha). As long as my work is not affected by your progress, I won’t really notice your activities in the office.

To me, work performance is the ultimate goal in your working life. I don’t want to be involved in office politics, administrative stuff, gossips and conflicts… as long as they don’t bother my own work and my own performance, I will steer clear of non-doctor activities. I want to be a doctor as much as possible rather than being an administrator, peacemaker, mediator, conflict-solver etc etc. I have zero interest to lead or manage people, nor do I have any desire to be led and managed by others. I would follow whatever the majority has decided to do (if I agree to it. If I don’t, I will certainly speak up), and I would keep on doing my work as I always do. I won’t get into conflict with you as long as your conduct doesn’t bother me. I would never willingly accept being tasked doing the MO roster or being in-charge of other people (I had to do the roster when I was a HO in A&E and it drove me nearly loco arranging for everyone’s leaves and requests. I promised myself that I would never again take on the task of being the captain of any department). I want to go to work, see my patients, and come back from work to read my books or study for exams.  My external life must remain pristine, neat and uncomplicated because in my internal life, I have a rich universe inside my head. I read, and then I think about what I had read, and then I research/google about matters I have thought about,  and then I write about what I’ve thought over. Then I repeat the whole ‘read, think, research, write’ sequence.

(To be honest, my internal life is much more interesting than my superficial external life. Haha)

I have no time for dramas. (Having said that, I WILL be a drama queen should you ever decide to bother me with your ‘entah apa-apa’ ideas that affect how I do my work.)

But when the office politics or personal conflicts start to affect your work or my general surrounding, then I will start noticing. Orang yang tak bergossip macam aku pun boleh jadi bergossip. Hahha. I am usually the last person to notice anything, but when I finally do, I will start paying attention. And then I will start thinking about it… the ethics of it… the professionalism of it.

Because other than reading, I am also very interested in matters of ethics. Books and ethics are the reason I choose to practice psychiatry. Have you ever noticed that a lot of characters in novels deal with personality? (and thus are psychiatry related) The villains in mystery novels have antisocial personality disorder, for example. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes as an opium addict, did you know that? And addiction IS part of psychiatry. A lot of themes in novels deal with psychosocial issues…. a fight for justice, a fight to break away from poverty and bad childhood circumstances, a struggle to overcome some form of traumas so that the character would emerge to become a strong hero. These are all psychiatry-related issues and stuff which I have been fascinated with since the day I could read…. which would be at 5 years old.

And I grew up reading John Grisham’s books. The theme of all his novels are law and ethics related. And thus, medical ethics was my favourite subject when I was in med school. 

And one of the most emphasized aspect of ethics in medical school were conflict of interest and ethics in the work place.

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I think most people have forgotten their ethics these days. It pained me to say this, but Malays especially are really bad at work ethics. Isn’t it such a tragic coincidence that ‘Malays’ sounds just like the English word ‘malaise’, the meaning of which is hardly flattering. And even the Malay version of ‘Melayu’ makes you think of a withered, shrunken flower.

Malays, in general, tend to allow their personal emotion to spill over into the professional realm and cause chaos in BOTH realms. Their ethics are haywire.

What do I mean by that? Well, I have a list. 😉

Romantic Relationship In The Workplace (intra-department)

This is a NO-NO!! I don’t care whether it is between staff nurses and PPKs or between doctors and staff nurses or between fellow doctors. It’s just really bad ethics! I am not even going to touch on the ‘dosa pahala’ and the morality of your conduct towards your legal spouse at home. But the workplace affair that you have is bound to affect the dynamic in  the department. If your workplace love affair then suffers through a break up, can you imagine how havoc it would be for the rest of us who might feel compelled to take sides just because they are good friends with one of the parties involved? The awkwardness of it is just not worth it!

Ni tempat kerja, bukan tempat ada affair! Get your personal life sorted out!

And if your spouse creates havoc in the workplace because of the affair you have with your colleagues, I am not likely to have a lot of sympathies at the downfall of your reputation at the work place. You put yourself in that situation and you better get out of it without affecting your work performance. The bottom line is work efficiency!

Last but not least, tak malu ke?? People talk about you, you know! It’s degrading, humiliating and an insult to your self-worth. Bagi aku, point malu ni dah cukup untuk menghalang niat untuk mewujudkan office affairs! If you still want to have affairs, at least one of you must have the decency to get out of the department first before you begin any such destructive affairs.

Personal Conflict Impacting On Work Accomplishments

Go ahead and fight with your colleagues if you have to. But never let it affect your work performance. No matter how angry you are at your colleagues/subordinates/superiors, your work must be well-done.  No ELs/MCs or asking to be transferred to a different unit just because you just had a fight with someone in your unit. If you have to communicate with your enemy to get the work done, then you have to do so despite of what you really feel. I can have a verbal argument with anyone, but if my work requires me to communicate with the person I have just had an argument with, then I WILL do so. It is a matter of pride for me that no personal feelings should ever cause my work to suffer. This is nothing extraordinary; just normal, expected professional behaviour. 

It would be the height of unprofessionalism for you to recruit supporters to your side and cause division within the department. If you have a problem with person A, then that’s on you and Person A. There is NO NEED to go to your boss, crying and asking your boss to intervene on your behalf. No matter how good your relationship with your boss is, crying and ‘mengacum’ about your colleagues is just not professional.

In general, spilling tears in front of your boss is just not allowed, okay! We are all adults here! Settle your problem among you guys and don’t bother your superiors with petty office fights.

In general, I don’t like crying women. Go ahead and cry in the toilet, if you must! Don’t do that in front of others! I think, crying publicly is a manipulative behaviour. If you have a point or an argument, say it clearly and professionally…. or even unprofessionally loudly, if you have to! But crying is pushing it beyond acceptability. If I were the boss, I would never let such an act influence me in a positive manner (ONLY in a negative manner).

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Taking sides

No! Double no! Especially if you are a boss! You must investigate the matter properly. It’s not enough that you are fair; you must also be SEEN to be fair. At least, be a good listener to BOTH sides.

Injudicious Emergency Leaves

I have never taken any EL since I came into PSY department (touch wood). I understand that some people have a lot of trouble and commitments in life and EL cannot be avoided entirely. But efforts must be displayed to minimize the frequency of ELs as much as possible. Maybe if you have taken one day of EL when your child has fallen sick, then the next day you can arrange for your spouse to take up his/her share of caring for your child too. This goes to BOTH men and women. Child rearing is not only the job of a mother. A father must take part too. Whenever I heard that a female colleague had to take ELs a few days in a row because her child was admitted into the hospital, I would roll my eyes and think inside my head, “Suami kau buat apa?? Dia tak boleh function ke? Korang tak boleh selang-selang or take turn ke?”

My mother and my father gave me the work ethics that I have now. The only ELs they have ever had when they were still working were when their parents passed away. Me and my sisters were healthy as a child, and we have rarely been admitted into the hospital for anything. So, I guess, my parents were lucky with us. Furthermore, my mother had a reliable domestic help when we were children. My mother said “Kerja elok-elok. Kalau perlu orang gaji, cari orang gaji. Mak sangat-sangat jarang EL. Mak sangat tak suka bila kena pi kerja, ganti orang EL. Seboleh-bolehnya cuba jangan menyusahkan orang”

From 2013 until now in 2017, I have never taken any EL. All my leaves are planned. I don’t know how the future might turn out to be… after all, my commitments are very little now and therefore I can afford my ethics in this. Maybe in the future when my commitments grow bigger and varied, I would have ELs too. But my point is, be considerate and judicious in what you consider as emergency. Kalau sikit-sikit nak EL, orang yang easy-going macam aku pun (ehem!) akan bengang!

Being On Time

I think that I am pretty punctual. There have been times when I arrive late to work, but it is not very frequent at all. Usually it happened when I have stayed up late to study (or to finish a novel) and thus accidentally wake up late. Or it is raining and there is an accident on the road causing me to be stuck in traffic jam.

I can get to work in a 10-minutes drive. So I usually start to get out of the house at 7.45 a.m. Usually my punch card would show that I arrive at 7.55 and occasionally 7.58/7.59. When I still lived with my parents, they would always nag me about it. “Waktu mak kerja dulu, setengah jam sebelum masuk waktu kerja, mak dah ada kat tempat kerja.” Then my father would add something along similar lines. My parents are a strict disciplinarian. 

I told them, “Mak, angah pi kerja sampai on time lah. Lepas tu angah terus pi ward and buat kerja. Angah jarang sangat nak dok kat pantry makan-makan macam orang lain. Orang lain sampai lagi lewat daripada angah, lepas tu pi pantry pula tu. At least, Angah dah makan siap-siap kat rumah.” I would defend myself.

“Mak dah makan kat rumah AND sampai setengah jam awal” My mom would shot back. Yup! When it comes to punctuality, I can never outdo my own parents.

Punctuality is not even an ethical problem…. it’s our life’s general rule, already. Being raised by two parents who take punctuality seriously, I became quite anal retentive about being on time, myself. Having said that, I don’t go around checking on other people’s punctuality… EXCEPT when it affects my own work. If your being late causes me to be slow in doing my own work, then I will start noticing. eg; HOs being late for morning rounds. Even then, I don’t make an issue out of it, if their lateness is not severe. I will simply start the rounds myself. But if you are 10-15 minutes late, then I will start feeling agitated already. So if you want to be late, please keep your lateness within the acceptable range of five minutes. And that’s the max!

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Of all the items in the list that I have enumerated above, romantic affair between colleagues is the most troublesome! If the affair involved a high-ranking officer with his/her subordinate, then there might exist an issue of conflict of interest when the officer in question make certain decisions that may seem to favour his/her romantic interest against the rest of the other subordinates. Then, the credibility of the officer shall suffer. All his/her decisions will be second-guessed and silently challenged behind his/her back.

And if the affair is found out by the spouse(s) of the involved parties, that is a whole lot of another can of worms! Your own colleagues would surely gossip about you. And can you blame them? You are the one who brings that sort of trashy, cheap entertainment into the workplace. They are only responding in kind.

So with all these troubles that would ensue when one is involved in an office affair, it boggled my mind as to why would anyone even bother? Even if you are a two-timing cheating bastard, can’t you at least seek your conquest from another setting or another department? Why must you involve someone at work to enhance your career as a casanova? It would hurt your own reputation and distress the whole department!

When I was a HO, my friend from another hospital told me how everyone in her hospital had talked about how this particular doctor had cheated on his wife with a female doctor with whom he worked in the same department. To make matters worse, his wife was also a doctor in the same hospital. Some of the staff nurses had seen the male doctor with his female colleague outside the hospital setting while they were out on a date and then tongues started to wag and stories about them got spread and embellished to an enormous degree. Do you know how ugly the talk became?

Let me enlighten you regarding how humiliating the talk can be. The dialogue would go something like this:

“Weh, MO mana yang teruk sangat ni? Handsome sangat ke dia ni?”

“Tak handsome pun! Tak layak langsung jadi kasanova.”

“Wife dia cun dak?”

“Cun la juga.”

“MO tu dah ada anak pun dengan wife dia. Baru kahwin jer pun”

“Girlfriend dia lagi cun daripada wife dia kot.”

“Wife dia baik laa…. kesian kat wife dia.”

“Awat yang MO perempuan tu pun gatal sangat. Dah tau laki orang!”

“MO perempuan tu pun dah ada boyfriend sebenarnya.”

“Habis tu? Awat dia pi kacau laki orang lagi?”

“Yang wife dia ni pun, awat tak tinggalkan ja laki macam tu?”

Isn’t it ugly? People would speculate about how you look, how your spouse look and whether your romantic interest is more beautiful/handsome than your spouse. If you are not that handsome/pretty yourself, they would talk about how ‘tak sedar diri’ you are. Hahhah. And then they assassinate your character and shred it to pieces! What would be left of your self-respect? Zip, zero, nada!

10 years hence, people STILL talk about you. Trust me! When a new HO enters your department, the gossipy staff nurses would tell them “Doktor ni dulu… dia… yadda yadda yadda. Dia suka kat bla bla bla. Lepas tu dia bercerai and so on and so forth. La ni pun dia dok….bla bla bla” It would be a never-ending headache, following you around like a relentless nemesis (which might be a fitting consequence to your own terrible mistake).

You might as well just transfer yourself to another hospital to get away from all the talk!

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In general, it is NEVER a good idea to mix business with pleasure. But if you cannot help yourself, at least one of the parties involved should transfer herself/himself to another department as soon as things get serious.

If you love your work and you value your reputation, please be professional with everyone at work and keep the relationship platonically friendly. Keep your flirtatious comments to yourself. All affairs start with flirting. So, don’t flirt! If someone tries to be too friendly with you, make your discomfort obvious and better yet, just walk off. He/she will get the idea and won’t try again! Tapi kalau kau pun tak assertive… giving mixed signals here, there and everywhere, it’s your fault! Lepas tu kau dok budget konon ‘aku dalam dilema’. So drama queen! You are the one who perpetuate the dilemma in the first place! G…God!

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In general, if I am nice to you and you are my colleague, that’s just me being kind. Hahaha. My principle is CLEAR about office romance! It’s a dumb thing to do!

Other than via flirting, affairs also get started because a member of the opposite sex starts talking about his/her personal problems to you. Sheesh! If I were the person at the receiving end of such heart-pouring session, I would think “Hiys, hang ni pathetic gila! Hang tak dak kawan lain sama jantina ka nak curah perasaan pasal masalah hang ni? Awat cari aku? Unless you wanna become my patient, I am not interested about your marital problems, especially since you are not of the same gender as me.”

Seriously! What the hell is wrong with people who like to talk about their marital problems to outsiders? Unless you are doing it in a clinical setting, talking about your marital problems to outsiders (especially with one of the opposite sex) is SO INAPPROPRIATE and SO WRONG!  (But then I guess, such conduct is already expected of someone who would have no qualms about starting an office affair and become a cheater). Even if you are in need of a good listener, don’t you have friends of the same gender who might understand you even better? Aku seriously tak faham! What a dodgy way of starting an affair!

My theory is: those who talk about their marital problems to someone of the opposite sex is actually subconsciously already attracted to that person, in the first place. They try to get that person’s attention by pouring out their sob story to this person in a manipulative manner. If this person is smart, he/she would put a stop to such sessions by saying “I wish I can help. But may I suggest you seek professional help with counsellors in pejabat agama, instead?” But if the person is just as ‘gatal’, then he/she would pretend that he/she is just being a kind-hearted, helpful listener to someone with a personal problem. Pffft! Self-delusional, MUCH??

“Maybe office love is about meeting the right person at the wrong place and the wrong time.” My best friend challenged my analysis, laughingly. “Cinta tu buta, Afiza,” My best friend gave me the cliched phrase (just to bait me for a response, I am sure. That’s just like her. Hahha)

Then I guess, love is not just blind but deaf and retarded as well. If I were the guy, I would have a few doubts about falling in love with someone so morally corrupted that she doesn’t mind stealing another woman’s husband. (Is such a husband-stealer the right person? Pfft) And if I were the woman, I would have a lot of qualms about falling in love with a guy who would cheat on his own wife with me. (Is such disloyal cheater the right person too, that you just happen to meet at the wrong place of your office and at the wrong time when he is already married? Come on!) That’s such a sick way to begin a relationship. But then, maybe this is sunnahtullah. After all, birds of a feather flock together, right? And dodgy male and dodgy female are probably made for each other, anyway.

So now the ball is in the court of the poor spouse at home. Would he/she have enough self-respect to leave his/her cheating spouse and move on? Alas, most of the time, they would only break down and cry and beg the cheater to come back into the fold of their loving arms. *sigh*

Sometimes there is no justice in this world. There is no satisfaction of a good ending and an amazing outcome in the stories of real life.

That’s why I prefer books over real life. In the books that I read, the wife will have enough pride and self-respect NOT to beg her cheating husband to come back to her. Instead, she would take matters into her own hands, get some revenge in unique ways, go on to become successful by herself and then find herself another more worthy hero as a replacement. Now, THAT’S satisfaction!

But in reality, the wife would only patiently waits. Konon ‘redha dan pasrah’. Setia ke hujung nyawa, berkorban apa saja. And all such drivel!

Maybe such wives don’t read what I read. *sigh*

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To all people who are involved in office affairs,

“If it’s the wrong place, at the wrong time… then it is MOST CERTAINLY the wrong person!”

Get over it, and don’t start something that would end catastrophically for everyone involved, only for it to be a fodder for malicious gossip. The tragedy of it all would make you weep.