Can We Save the World?

cathelpIn the early 80s, I was promoted into an HR executive role. Part of my new responsibility was the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Our organization was ahead of its time; EAPs were relatively new back then. Ours consisted of a manager and EAP counselors, all employees of the organization. The overhead cost of the function was rolled into HR – my department.

The EAP counselors helped employees when performance indicated there might be a problem; alcohol and drugs seemed to be a common culprit. They made heroic efforts to distance  themselves from the organization, so that confidentiality would not be questioned. The offices were intentionally remote, and those in HR (including myself) knew nothing of the work being done, to ensure confidentiality.

I found myself conflicted. As a business person, I should be able to justify and explain any expense under my responsibility. But whenever I asked questions about the cost of the EAP program as compared to the value it provided, I got a very defensive “if we don’t help these employees they could lose their jobs, or worse” response.  How do you counter that without sounding like a total sleaze?

But I was troubled with how could we, a business with a low margin and constant revenue pressure, could afford to spend this money without knowing the return. Not to say the work did not have merit, but was it the work we should be doing and what was the return on our investment on trying to “save” these employees?  I was too young and green back then to push the issue, but it nagged nonetheless.

Today, I see a Washington Post article titled “End Obamacare, and people could die. That’s okay.” Holy smokes – someone really said that?

Reading a little further after my initial déjà vu on the EAP program, I realize that the author is calling out a political sector for sensationalizing an issue that is both real and important, eliciting the emotions of all of us who care about saving lives, but missing the facts and reality.

He uses an interesting analogy. We have a national speed limit to protect lives. Will it protect all lives? We know it won’t. We also know that to achieve saving all lives, we would have to place severe restrictions on everyone. But that isn’t realistic. We cannot. So we meet somewhere in the middle and tragically “thousands of people die each year in car crashes.”

In calling out a political sector, he is suggesting that we would be better served to end the sensationalism, and talk as adults should talk. Analyze the facts, weigh the pros and cons, and make the best decision we can at the time.  Once made, we continuously monitor and learn so that we can continue improving for all concerned.

Naturally, improving for all concerned means sacrifice – if done right, the sacrifice is equal or at least understood.

News Flash: We cannot save the world unless we believe that ending up like the Eloi and Morlocks is salvation.

The very best that we can do is to do the very best we can do.  What does that look like? Perhaps something like this.

We recognize that there will be winners and losers.

We take advantage of our deep and powerful compassion as people, but do it smartly. We help with a hand up, not a hand out.

We stop listening to sound bites and start listening for facts.

We respect other opinions.

We stop maligning others simply because they think differently.

We recognize that by deliberately evoking people emotions, we may be leading them down a path that allows them to bypass the facts.

We treat people as intelligent adults, instead of helpless creatures.

Here’s the reality….people will not live or die because of Obamacare. People will live and die, some because of choices that they make, or because of luck that they either have or do not have.

Do we, as a country, need to do a better job of helping those less fortunate than ourselves? Absolutely. Do we go into that blindly, setting totally unrealistic expectations and then admonish those who question the method? Apparently, we do.

I don’t mean this as a partisan statement. We’re all doing it.

I suggest that we do not have to.

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