Practical Practice Management

Watch Your Tone Of Voice




Working with the public on a daily basis we need to remember that many times what our clients/customers hear sounds much different from what we think.  There are times when we encounter our customers that we are also in the middle of dealing with other daily routine tasks or maybe even an urgent issue and instead of our customer/client being our first priority and to them is sounds like they are not important and we may not even realize it.

We might even sound worse, like we really do not want to be bothered with them and how do you think that makes them feel?  Let me relate to you a situation that happened recently.  Our accountant had made an appointment a month ago to come to our office to go through the accounting program and make sure that he had all of the up-to-date information that he would need come year-end.  He had asked that I have certain bills and statements ready for his auditing and that he would only need an hour or so to do this.  When he entered my office he seemed to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder and his statements to me sounded very short and sharp.

My first thought was maybe he wasn’t having a good day, but then he proceeded to be more harsh and telling me that it appeared that “I” must be doing something wrong because certain accounts didn’t match up.  I let him know nicely that I had not changed anything at all and was not sure what he was talking about.  A few hours later and many “unnecessary tongue spankings” he realized that he did not make several “normal” adjustments last year and laughed “that was part of the problem, so things are not as bad as I thought.”

I just stared at him, he had been talking down to me telling me telling me that I must have been doing things wrong and much more, just to find out that “he” forgot to make some changes last year.”  I was not only upset, but was totally rattled by the tone of voice he kept using with me as if I were a naughty child and was doing things wrong.

When I did tell him that I didn’t know how to do one of the things he showed me, he just chuckled and said “oh I know that you have been told about this before, you just didn’t do it.”  I felt like my Dad was in the room scolding me!  It was really amazing to me that he felt that by using a tone of voice that was belittling, degrading, that I would want to keep him as our accountant.  We should pay to be treated this way?  I don’t think so.

This was not just a one time bad encounter, there have been several, but this will be the last.  I am not sure what the issue is with this person, but I do know that if we are going to be paying top dollar for services, we should be treated kindly and appropriately.

The one good thing that came out of this experience was the reminder to me to never allow our clients to be on the receiving end of a conversation or encounter with anyone who works for our business where they are treated with a tone of voice that is less than honoring and respectful, which is what they deserve.  Ask yourself “how do I sound to my customers?”

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Co-workers Who Weigh The Team Down




One of the most difficult types of co-workers to have is one that does not carry his or her portion of the workload in the office.  We all have days when we move a bit slower, but this type of co-worker is like this on a regular basis.

For example: they wait for someone else to answer the phone first so they do not have to.  Or they see things that need to be done around the office, like trash that needs to be emptied or filing that is sitting there, but just leave it for someone else to do.  They always appear busy, but are not.

Because these employees do not step up to the plate and are not active and engaged players of the office team, they weigh down the rest of the team by leaving extra things to take care of.

As long as they have not been confronted with this issue, they feel that their behavior is acceptable.  For busy office managers this type of employee can fly under the radar unless the problem is brought to their attention to monitor and address.

Early in my career as an office manager we had hired someone who we soon found out was a “boat anchor,” she weighed us down with her unfinished work on a daily basis.  At first I thought it was because there was so much work to do, and I was so busy that I was not watching her closely to see what exactly she was accomplishing each day.

It was not until my boss mentioned to me that I could do her job twice as fast that I realized she was just pacing herself and collecting her paycheck while the rest of us were picking up the slack.

Having a “boat anchor,” your office team cannot move forward the way they need to because of the extra weight that they have to pull and will eventually tire out from trying.

Here are three steps for raising the anchor:

  1. Write specific task issues that are not being completed and spell out what the expectations and time frames are for completion.
  2. Address the fact that no one likes to pick up the slack for a less productive co-worker.  All team players need to equally do their part or they do not play on the team.
  3. Monitor progress and give feedback on improvement. This is a very important step as the “boat anchor” will realize that you mean business and are paying attention to what they are and are not doing.

By letting employees know that you are monitoring their work progress, you should have smoother seas for sailing ahead of you.  If they continue to drag the boat down, then cut them loose; your team will greatly appreciate being able to move ahead without them.

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