June 23, 2018
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I’m a Peeping Tom, but I’m just doing my job — honest

Slate | BDN
Slate | BDN
Emily Yoffe
By Emily Yoffe, Special to the BDN

Dear Prudence,

I work in the IT department of a law firm and I set up conference rooms for meetings. A few of the rooms I set up are right across the street from a brand new apartment building that’s almost 50 stories tall. Most of the time you can’t see into people’s living rooms because the glass is reflective. But between 8 and 9 a.m., because of the angle of the sun, you can see right into people’s living rooms and bedrooms. One woman gets up around 8:30 a.m. and likes to strut around her bedroom naked. I’m kind of shocked that she doesn’t realize how many people can actually see her. I’d like her to know she should pull the blinds down as almost everyone else in the building does at that time of day. The problem is, I have no idea what her apartment number is. Should I contact the building and let them know? I was also thinking of putting up a sign for her, but that wouldn’t look good to a client coming in for a meeting.

— Accidental Peeping Tom

Dear Accidental,

I have the feeling your firm may have certain kinds of clients who, were they to be seated directly across from Lady Godiva at about 8:30 in the morning, could be convinced to agree to any proposal your lawyers want to put forth. A sign is a bad idea, as are a telescope or binoculars — although I wouldn’t be surprised to find out your office building is now host to a bunch of workers with a sudden passion for bird watching. It’s incumbent upon the urban dweller to recognize that people who live in glass apartments should put on their underwear. So perhaps what you are observing is this woman’s deliberate desire to strut upon the stage. Your notifying her building’s management of her activities will likely be perceived as a tale told by an idiot. This is no “Rear Window” in which you peep at your neighbors and solve a murder. If you don’t want to see this woman’s dishabille, just turn away.

— Prudie

Dear Prudence,

I’m a young female doctor who’s fairly new to the hospital where I’m doing my residency in pediatrics. Residency is brutally difficult, but I can handle it. What I’m having major difficulty with are the passive-aggressive nurses and secretaries who share my workspace. I’m barely 5 feet tall and look like a teenager. I’ve also never been good at dealing with the subtle drama that goes on between women. I find it really hard to do my job when the middle-aged nurses and secretaries question every order I give, force me to justify my orders, “forget” to do what I asked, or whisper among each other about whether or not I’m competent.

They never do this to the staff doctors or male residents. They also do it to any young female who’s starting out. They are not outwardly aggressive, so there is rarely a concrete incident I could document as proof. I should be able to talk to my program director about this, but she herself is a bully who delights in catching us make mistakes and in putting us down. I’ve got more than three years to go, but I cry for hours after every long, tiring shift. How do I deal with this?

— Miserable Doc

Dear Doc,

To find a diagnosis for you, I turned to my friend, emergency physician Kerry Foley. She said she doesn’t doubt your account that the nurses and other staff can be passive aggressive, and maybe even more so to other females. She says that even when one is experienced and rested, these relationships can be difficult. But add the resident’s burden of being overworked, underpaid, eating dinner from a vending machine, and dealing with sick children, and that’s a recipe for tears.

Foley advises the therapeutic shift of trying to see the world from the perspective of these middle-aged women. Foley says imagine what it’s like to have years of experience, then have to face a yearly troupe of newly minted doctors who arrive acting like the boss. She says in every new work situation she encountered it took her awhile to earn the respect of the nursing staff.

She suggests doing the following: Be kind to patients and their families; answer the phone at the desk sometimes when everyone is busy; help a patient to the bathroom on occasion; ask the nurses’ opinions about a clinical situation. She also suggests scheduling an appointment with the head nurse on your floor and asking, “What can I do to be a more effective member of this patient care team?”

Foley says that young doctors have had their noses in books for so long that they often need to work on their people skills — you pretty much acknowledge this yourself. So try these suggestions and see if things don’t improve. She adds it couldn’t hurt to show up at the beginning of your next night shift with a plate of brownies for the hard-working staff.

— Prudie

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. Questions may be edited.


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