4 min read

Warm Take: Surrender Dorothy

"The witch's Dorothy?"
Warm Take: Surrender Dorothy

(This post was originally emailed to supporters in April, 2022.  I unpaywalled it in July, 2022.)

3 days, 8 phone calls, 4 voicemails, 1 call answered by a person. I had an appointment. Victory.

The dermatologist’s office favored a 3rd party texting app, Klara, not the phone. Klara’s cute human name doesn’t mean she talks to my actual doctor, or even my medical records. It means that she was born of venture funding, at a company that was built to be acquired.

There’s a different app for the large medical system where I get care. It worked fine to ask my doctor to send, again, the dermatologist referral she had made when I was in her office 3 weeks prior. They had to re-refer me twice. The second time, the FAX didn’t go through.

So when I arrived at the dermatologist on the wrong day, I took a breath. Then, I asked them to cancel the appointment.

I got behind the wheel — I live in the suburbs now, weird — and I actually nearly cried from frustration.  

I also remembered a woman, maybe her name was Monica. (Her name is Ann Castillo.) She had a larger, longer, more consequential, and yet similar, experience with her husband’s employer. It wasn’t just one missed appointment. It was about his insurance, his employment status — and it lasted for weeks and weeks, while he was hospitalized, and profoundly ill with Covid.

Her husband’s employer was Amazon.

A couple of years back, on seeing requests from union organizers at one of the tech companies, I recall observing that they were basically asking for Good Management Hygiene. They wanted to know what was expected, how they would be treated, and some clarity around how their compensation worked.

This Sunday morning, I'm not here to elaborate on my lack of labor history expertise. I'm here to tell you that if you find yourself sitting around a conference table, deciding to wield the power of your institution to deride one of your workers –  the child of someone else’s mother – as “not smart or articulate,” you are the problem.

And if the same you, who accidentally emailed your disrespectful opinion to 1,000 people, hasn't seen The Wizard of Oz, you may have missed a lesson on unforced errors.

In an effort to intimidate, probably everyone, the Wicked Witch got on her broom and committed “Surrender Dorothy” to skywriting. Yes, the Witch consolidated sentiment, followers, and a measure of power — in Dorothy's favor. That wasn't so smart.

Everyone deserves to be treated as an intelligent human being at work. My heart goes out to the workers at Amazon’s NYC JFK8 warehouse, and I celebrate their successful bid in articulating their desire to be treated as we all want to be treated at work. Like our work matters, like we’re important. Like we’re valuable beyond measure.

When I left the dermatologist’s office, I was cheered to spy a Costco across the road. I swung over to pick up some staples from a business that aims to pay its workers a living wage.

And then I went home, and used my own doctor's app to request a new referral. Much simpler than everything must have been for Ann Castillo, as she tried to secure her husband's employment, and thus his care under employer-provided benefits.

Jodi Kantor, Karen Weise, Grace Ashford are simply the best of The New York Times, doing what NYT does best.

The Wizard of Oz is fresh in my mind. Margaret Atwood brings it up in her new book, Burning Questions — multiple times, so far, I’m still reading. Atwood calls it, iirc, the first truly American myth.

Here's something I wrote in, gulp, 2011, about The Wizard of Oz,  Ruby Slippers, Broomsticks and Sponsors: (Some) Leadership Lessons from the Wizard of Oz. (lol, posted on April 3, 2011.)

I wrote Warm Take: Performance of Care in July 2021. It's about, among other things, who is deemed worthy of physical safety at work.

And, I wrote about my hierarchy of workplace needs, which Jason Li kindly illustrated, back in 2018, at Slowness, Speed and Structure: On Management #31.

Ok, this is a Sunday morning Warm Take. So it's caffeine-infused, hopefully I vanquished the typos and so forth. (Probably not, I'm rushing to get to a home maintenance project, gah.)

Thank you so much for supporting and reading my newsletter!

Annual subscribers will receive a note from me later this week, off cycle. It's about what I hope will be my final administrative actions related to paid memberships, which have not worked correctly for annual subscribers since I left Substack. (Hopefully this has been invisible to most of you since September.)

Also, I as previously announced, I plan to discontinue monthly subscriptions. If you're a current monthly subscriber, nothing will change: you're grandmothered! I'll also be changing the newsletter's pricing, in favor of something that's more like "pay what you wish." More soon on this.

If you have questions – about your subscription – or about people management, or my view of The Wizard of Oz, please send me a note!

May you, your loved ones, your co-workers, and the Castillo family, be safe, healthy and free.

Anne Libby

Gif, the Wicked Witch of the West sends minions after Dorothy & co.
Does this seem, um, smart?