Recently, I had an appointment with a new doctor. While I was signing in, I noticed several people working behind the desk. I observed a “forty-something” woman berate one of the younger women about not helping out. She blurted out a few sentences in a derogatory manner. Then she said, “Haven’t you ever heard of teamwork?” She turned to another co-worker and complained to her as if the younger woman was not present.
So what? This kind of behavior can have a negative impact on patient satisfaction, employee morale, engagement, and office productivity. If the office staff members treat each other this way, how does the whole practice treat patients? Fortunately, my new doctor was wonderful. However, the passive-aggressive behavior behind the front desk was disturbing. It may negate the environment that the physicians are trying to create. If it persists, this type of atmosphere is likely to lead to underperformance and high employee turnover. The younger woman may “get with the program and help out,” but she is likely to become resentful over time. Negative reinforcement does not bring out the best in people. Demeaning and passive-aggressive language does not contribute to positive teamwork. All of these factors could have a detrimental effect on the profitability of the medical practice.
When I observe a scenario like this one, I reflect upon it with curiosity. What could be going on? People have different ways of communicating, working, learning, handling stress, etc. In this situation, I would ask a lot of questions. What is really going on with the older woman under stress and the younger woman who is not helping out. Are these behaviors a symptom of a larger problem within the medical practice? Are the roles and responsibilities clear among staff members? How do the leaders interact with each other and their employees?
If you are facing any of these challenges, I encourage you to step back and take a look at your whole system. An immediate reaction might be to reprimand these individuals and move on. If there are deeper issues at work, reprimanding and moving a few employees around will not lead to a stronger organization. Resist the temptation to go for a short-term fix. Beyond the stated mission and values of your business, what kind of culture do you really have? Take advantage of this learning opportunity to evaluate your current scenario and discover what steps you need to take to create a strong, sustainable, and fulfilling business.