Anne C. Woodlen, CEO
Caring for Annie, Inc.
Being disabled and embedded in the system—Social Security Disability, Medicare, Medicaid, Heating Emergency Assistance Program, Food Stamps, doctors, medical transport, case managers, aides—is the equivalent of running a small business. It requires the skills of scheduling, managing employees, filing forms, knowing regulations, and accessing funding, among others. You can take your place at the bottom of the system, identify yourself as the patient, and submit to every gross thing the system does to you, or you can become the chief executive officer of your own company.
As CEO of Caring for Annie, Inc., I have become fully in control of my own life, recognizing that I have to contract with an apparently endless number of other companies in order to get my company to work effectively. Personally, my success as a CEO includes the ability to be a good reporter, a paralegal, a time management expert, a diplomat, and a cutthroat power player.
I am an independent contractor. I am Donald Trump, weighing the needs of the organization against the talents of the employees, and announcing, “You’re fired.” Caring for Annie, Inc., is a business and the decisions to fire people are not personal.
My first firing came unintentionally. Medicaid transportation dispatch had a very nasty young woman taking phone calls to schedule ride orders. She was abusive, insulting and controlling. When she became annoyed, she would put the caller on hold without announcement. One day she kept me on hold, tying up the phone in my doctor’s office, for half an hour.
After months of this kind of thing, I decided to report her to her supervisor. She refused to give me her name or job title, or her supervisor’s name or job title—all of which information is required to be given by anyone paid with government monies.
Nevertheless, I got to her supervisor and complained. It did me no good, so I spoke with the supervisor’s supervisor, who also blew me off. I dropped the matter, but several times a week, I would have to run the gauntlet past this nasty young woman and the frustration and anger were making me sick. I knew that if I was having trouble with this person, then a lot of older, sicker, less intelligent people were having the same trouble without knowing how to deal with it.
My aide—a big, blousy redhead—stood in the kitchen and yelled at me that I couldn’t stop; I couldn’t give up; I had to do something. I made one more call, this time to the director of the dispatch agency. I made simple, orderly, factual statements about what the employee was doing. The director asked questions to gather more information, and clearly was making notes about the matter. During one writing silence, I asked her what she was going to do about the employee. She replied, “Fire her,” and Annie discovered Power.
I sat there with my mouth hanging open. I, the patient—the least of the least, the lowest of the low, the poor and broken beast, presumed to be the dumbest person in the system—had just gotten somebody fired. I was dumbfounded, then exultant. Power!
Herewith is what I have learned about the effective use of power:
1. Know the rules. There are rules, regulations, laws and commandments that govern all human behavior. When you are having a problem with someone—presumably in some agency—inform yourself about the rules under which that person operates. Figure out which rules have been broken. Is the employee/agency, in fact, supposed to be doing what you want?
2. Talk to the person who has the power to do what you want. Arguing with the receptionist about a prescription is pointless because she doesn’t have the power to write the prescription. Ask to speak to the nurse, who can talk to the doctor. (To be continued)