Friday, December 12, 2008

5 Questions for Luther Whiting, Director of Human Resources

5 Questions is our ongoing feature where we introduce you to the people who make Brandywine Counseling run, spotlighting a different staff member every two weeks.

Name: Luther Whiting
Job: Director of Human Resources
Time with BCI: 5 years

1. You’ve kept HR running smoothly despite being relocated to the basement of Lancaster during the renovations to the Outreach Center. Tell us about your job and what you enjoy about it.
I’m responsible for making sure all of our employees get paid on time, get benefits, have all their paperwork in place, understand our policies and procedures. I kind of take care of the employees from the human relations side of it, but also give support to management to make sure that the policies and procedures are valid, that we abide by the laws and criteria, and that we get the best benefits for our employees. So, I work both sides and have to stay in the middle.

There are people here that are really, really good people, and every day [you] see them doing something that you go, “Wow, that’s really neat!” I don’t know if I can really put that in words. I’ve enjoyed being here with Brenda. She’s been fun to be down here with. I miss my office -- but I think in any environment, any job, there are certain people that you become attached to, not so much because you’re friends of theirs, but because you have a lot of respect for what they do, and how they do it. And I have a few people that I really, really find to be just, so pleasant to me, because they really like what they do, they do it as well as they can, and they rarely, if ever, complain.

2. Why did you decide to work in the addiction treatment field?
I never thought I would. The decision was based on seeing something different in healthcare -- because that’s where I’d been -- something that was new. With my interview with Sally [Allshouse, Executive Director], I liked what she said, and I liked what little I saw at the time. I just thought it would be a nice opportunity and a nice challenge. I had pretty much said, “I’m gonna give it 5 years.” I think it’s been everything that I’ve wanted it to be. And I live in Baltimore, so to drive the hour and 20 minutes, hour and a half a day, and feel like coming to work every day, is really important to me! And maybe there have been a few times when I haven’t felt well, I didn’t feel like coming to work, but I really feel like coming to work every day!

And I know a lot more about substance abuse than I ever thought I’d know. I have a lot of respect for what the people in this company, and this company, does, and the results. I don’t know that my initial impression was that I would like it as much as I do, but I’m glad I made the decision. And from my perspective it’s worked out.

I’ve had my moments when it hasn’t been a fun place, we all do. This has been a fun place to work. This has been a good place to work. And I can tell you that, when I hit my 5 year point, I started thinking, 4 or 5 months before that, and said, “Y’know, do you really want to keep driving an hour and 20 minutes?” And the answer I gave myself was, “Why not? You’re having fun. You’re enjoying this.”

3. What advice do you have for someone who would like to do the job you do?
Develop thick skin. Have a tremendous amount of respect for people, and what they are capable of doing, not what they do. Like yourself. Don’t expect anyone to like you every single day. Because one day, they like you, ‘cause you’re gonna tell them yes to everything they ask you. The next day, they’re not gonna like you, because you’re gonna tell them no! But, respect the fact that those people, if they come back and ask you another question, they respect you. And I think that’s what’s important.

I think to do the job the right way, so that employees respect you, you have to subjugate yourself to the fact that you are a facilitator, and someone that is here to help people, and that your personal views, however strong they may be, need to be left at home. When you make judgments about people, and what they look like, what they sound like, all those little things that we are trained as we get older and older to do, to make decisions on whether we like somebody or not, that’s not something I believe that you can, or should, do in Human Resources.

4. Do you have any opportunity to work with BCI’s clients?
I’ve really enjoyed my contact with the clients while I’ve been in my temporary location. In one of my previous jobs, I was administrator over at a childcare center. And, I just recently had a grandbaby. And I really like to see the children in the Bridge group and how they interact with each other, and watch them grow, and how excited they can be. That’s been kind of fun for me.

A couple of their mothers are looking for jobs, so sometimes they’ll ask me, “How would you approach this type of thing?” That, I like, because it’s touching on a young person’s life in some way, that will allow them to hopefully grow up to be a valid member of society. I’ve really, really enjoyed that part of it.

Last year, a client’s grandson was going for an interview. And it was just easy for me to sit down at my computer and say, “Here’s who you contact, who’ll give you all these directions.” And when she came back, she was like, “Wow! You made it so easy for me, because the school gave us everything we wanted, how far we should stay from the hotel, so we could do this interview, it was within walking distance, it was a pretty day, we got to see Boston…” And I don’t know if those are things I’m supposed to do, but those are things I do because it’s easier for me. I’ve been dealing with educational things a long time.

5. If you had $30,000 to donate to BCI, what would you do with it?
I would take this basement, and do some extra work in it for air conditioning and heat and comfort, because I believe I have learned a lot about the person who works down here, and although it’s much, much, much better than it was, I think she probably deserves a little bit nicer area, to be honest with you. I mean, I could say, “I’d love to donate it to the childcare center.” Y’know, it’s cold now, and it’s damp, and sometimes moist. I would donate it to spruce up Brenda’s area and make it a little more livable on a regular basis.

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