What a difference a little humanity makes

I recently discovered that some companies ‘get’ the concept of humanity, while others have probably not ever heard of it. I was hired by a company who requires even their subcontractors to submit to drug testing. ‘No problem,’ I thought, ‘How bad could it be?’

I found out it could be pretty bad.

You can’t just go to your own doctor for a drug test. It has to be done by a contracted clinic. The problem is that independent clinics set their own standards, and those standards can vary greatly.

At the first clinic, I was greeted by a receptionist whose friendly nature put me right at ease. After I passed through the door to the inner sanctum, however, all friendliness was immediately vacated and replaced by dirty walls and an icy attitude. I was led into a messy supply room with a mortar and brick floor and a grimy drain, asked to empty my pockets, then led to a room that looked like a broom closet with a toilet. I was handed a cup, and told to fill it to a line. The nurse didn’t smile even the tiniest bit, gave almost no instructions, and avoided all eye contact.

The door closed behind me, I found myself staring at a water heater covered in a thin layer of dust, grimy walls, a light switch with masking tape over the missing switch, and a toilet that clearly had someone else’s pee all over the rim. The room smelled like urine. The room was perhaps slightly cleaner than a gas station bathroom, and seemed it was perhaps a room they used to torture children. Gag reflex invoked, my sole thought was, ‘No job is worth this.’

The cupeth filled, I flushed the toilet and opened the door, at which point I was informed that I was not supposed to flush the toilet, and that doing so had invalidated my sample (no warning had been given, and no explanation was offered.) I had taken two hours off work for this, and I was not in the least bit pleased when the nurse, looking directly at the cold brick floor, invited me to stay for three more hours so that if I had to go again, they could collect another sample. I left, pissed (yes, pun intended) to return to work. I was not offered the opportunity to wash my hands.

The next day, I could contrast the experience against a polar opposite visit to a downtown Seattle clinic, whose staff were friendly, humorous, and worked in a completely clean environment. They clearly understood the concept of ‘We’re all in this together.’

After the first experience, I told myself I would do everything possible to never again have to submit to drug testing. I figured it was one of the worst non-violent experiences a human could have. The next day, people who understand the significance of humanity made the whole thing seem like nothing. I forgot about it five seconds out the door.

With a little teamwork, I bet everyone could appreciate the concept of humanity. Perhaps all it would take is companies implementing standards for testing facilities. Follow the standards, get the testing contracts. Ignore the standards, treat people like ants, and lose the contracts.

If you are an employer in the position to have your new hires treated like worthy human beings, this is a responsibility. If you run a testing facility or medical clinic that does testing, same thing goes.

This is about working better, treating people like human beings. And it’s about feeling good about what you put out into the world.

That crazy little thing called humanity goes a long way. And it always comes back.

Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.


Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.

Thank you! This is going to feel good.

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