Answer Man

Donating Is in His Blood

How much blood can you donate without keeling over?

Just ask Orlando’s Ron Howard, one of the world’s most prolific donors of platelets ever. He’s given 145 gallons—and he’s still standing. Or course, he’s given them over nearly four decades, but still…

“It’s just my way of giving back to society,’’ says the 55-year-old Orlando native. “I think everybody should do something to help others and this is just what I do.’’

When giving platelets, you don’t part permanently with your blood, as with whole-blood donations. A machine separates the platelets and returns the leftovers (including red and white blood cells) to your body. So donors like Howard can make the trip to Florida’s Blood Centers every couple of weeks. Meanwhile, a whole-blood donor must wait nearly two months before the body has replenished the pint that he or she has given.

Platelets (cell fragments that originate in the bone marrow) are important in treating cancer patients, particularly those with leukemia. Separating the blood components allows one platelet donor to provide the same amount that it would take eight whole-blood donors combined to produce.

Florida’s Blood Centers has done the math on Howard’s generosity: It estimates he has helped a staggering 3,000 cancer patients.

About 15 years ago, he got to meet one of those beneficiaries, a youngster with leukemia. Because their blood types were a perfect match, Howard’s donations went specifically to the boy for an extended period, and the cancer went into remission. The two remain friends today.

Perhaps what the then-8-year-old said when they met explains more than anything why Howard does what he does:
“Thanks for life.’’


When companies lay off employees, why do their official statements sound so similar?

Answer Man decided that before delivering a response he should reposition himself and move in a different direction. So he took a nap.

Indeed, it seems that when it’s time to downsize, obligatory obfuscation rules. For instance, SeaWorld claimed recently that the elimination of 300 jobs “will allow us to operate more efficiently and better position us for long-term growth and independence.’’ And Disney said in December that cutting a quarter of its global development group would “enable us to better align our approach to business development across the segment, eliminate duplication of efforts, and streamline our decision-making.’’

Well at least they didn’t say “synergy-related head count restructuring.’’

Bob Sutton has actually heard that term used, among many others. The professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University studies the dynamics of downsizing, and says the careful, bland language —which a colleague of his calls “jargon monoxide’’—is a form of self-deception that companies use to try to distance themselves from the unfortunate act.

“It makes it easier if you dehumanize it in the language that you use—for your emotional well-being and to avoid embarrassment and creating a negative identity,’’ Sutton says. “But it really doesn’t fool anybody.’’ Another reason for the corporate speak, Sutton says: “Sometimes the lawyers will ask you to use language that might be safer in subsequent litigation.’’

Sutton has found some humor in it all. A few years ago, he asked readers of his blog (bob to submit euphemisms for “layoffs” (which is itself, arguably, a euphemism for “firings”). The mind-boggling responses ranged from “offboarded’’ to “rebalancing the level of human capital.’’

He’s found something else in all his years of research: No matter what language companies use, whenever they show compassion to the departing, the remaining workforce works harder.

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