Once upon a time, high up on the 12th floor of a busy hospital, there was a small, very well equipped ward. From the outside everything looked just fine, however, just under the surface things were not quite how they should have been. 

Ever since it had been converted from an old store room the hot taps had never delivered a drop of hot water. Many an expert had come and many an expert had failed to fix the problem. Eventually a very experienced workman from another department was brought in to see if there was anything he could do. 

What he saw shocked him: nursing staff were filling mugs with hot water from the nearby coffee machine and were pouring it into the designer sinks so that they could give the patients a simple hand wash with a little dignity. When he saw what the nurses had to do to get their job done he became fully motivated to try and solve the problem. Sure enough after investigating all the possible root causes, he designed a solution and two long days later the job was finished.

Tired after his labors, he showed the head nurse the results of his effort only to receive an ungrateful question in return:  “why has it taken nearly two years to fix it?” Understandably, the plumber had at least hoped for a few words of appreciation and possibly an offer of a cup of coffee and a biscuit or two, so you can imagine what effect her thoughtless question had upon him?

I was told this story by my brother in law and he was still reeling from the upset the nurse had caused. However, after reflecting upon it I came to the conclusion that in fact the nurse had asked exactly the right question but had directed it towards completely the wrong person at the wrong time! By letting her frustration out on the very person that had fixed the problem she effectively closed off any possibility of receiving any help from him again.

There is an expression in Flemish: ‘stank voor dank krijgen’ which means literally means ‘receiving a bad smell for thanks!’ 

Have a good week,