How looking good can make you bad (Press Conference Reflection)
This past week each member of our team was assigned a role to act out in the DC Lead Crisis that occurred from 2000 – 2004. I acted as Lynette Stokes, the representative for the DC Department of Health. The exercise of reading all the briefings and then defending the actions of others, was a great example to me of often what it can be like to be a leader in an organization. In this case, however, most representatives were guilty of misdoing or covering it up and quite honestly, I was appalled at how they acted.
After watching the footage of the actual press conference where Lynette Stokes lied to the public I realized that how deep of a hole you can dig yourself into. Knowing what she knew and having an office dedicated to defending public health, she could have given advice regardless of how her agency had acted. The EPA and DOH agreed in my group that we were going to tell everything we knew to the public whereas the CDC, Washington Aqueduct and WASA lied or really just shifted blame. The blame shifting and pointing fingers, really accomplished nothing.
As the DOH, I decided to give all the advice I could base on the packets I was given. I admitted that the DOH did not produce effective health warnings and that we had failed the public, but I also tried to avoid chaos. The DOH is responsible for making sure those that need access to healthcare can get it and assessing the honest risk of individuals. I tried to stick to the morals that the DOH lays out because that is what the job of Lynette Stokes was.
I do think the final question of the press conference was interesting. “Should you keep your job?” was asked of each of the panelists and not surprisingly all of us said yes. When arguably, none of us have done our job already.
I don’t understand why the samples were originally not reported and while it’s good that people felt the need to whistle blow, it shouldn’t have been necessary. The degree of jaded it takes to not realize how doing your job in protecting the drinking water quality of others can affect public health is honestly mind boggling. This exercise kind of showed to me how people will act in their own self-interest and showed that we somehow need a better way of determining who is a good leader. The idea that you can be fired for factual results and that even when you report them correctly you can be fired in completely ludicrous. I wonder if a series of HR complaints against Mr. Mercotte could have helped and I wonder how we can prevent this from happening in the future.
This exercise, and really this course overall, has really challenged my view of others. I try to always assume individuals are doing their best and to discover that some people will willingly not do their job is hard. I don’t think of myself as the most moral person in the world and honesty when reading the Young Professionals survival guide, I find myself seriously considering what I would do in these situations. For me, clear things like fraud (falsifying reimbursements) aren’t the challenge, but it’s the situations when you are pretty sure what someone is asking you to do is wrong but they are your boss. I can see myself struggling with this and that is why I have really tried to be careful with who I surround myself with.