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It's My Office and I'll Cry If I Want To

It's My Office and I'll Cry If I Want To
Illustration by Andrew Joyner

Several years ago, Dr. William Frey met with a team of doctors, scientists, and hospital administrators about plans to “head up a new department,” as he put it. Frey, who is now the director of the Alzheimer’s Research Center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., knew that the ambitious medical project required a lot of advance planning. “We’d scheduled this organizational meeting several weeks in advance and we each had agreed to do things to prepare for it,” he says. “I said I’d do X and Y, another physician said he’d do A, B, and C.” But when the group met, the second physician hadn’t done his homework. He tried to pass his unpreparedness off on a subordinate, and berated her in front of the entire committee even though she wasn’t to blame.

“He starts yelling at this woman administrator, saying how come you didn’t do this or that,” Frey recalls, “She was sitting at the table and she was wearing glasses, I remember. As he yelled at her, she didn’t say anything, but you could see these tears coming down her cheeks under her glasses.” As soon as the physician noticed the tears, he stopped. He apologized. He admitted the fault was his. Frey was fascinated. “Clearly these tears communicated something in that workplace situation very effectively,” he says.