Who Has Your Back?

On Tuesday, we covered the topic of Managers Who Listen.  There is more to listening than just paying attention when someone is speaking to you.  Managers need to listen to what is going on in the workplace around them.

One of my high school teachers told her students “You need to be able to hear the grass grow.”  She said “If you can pick up what is being said around you, you then become more in tune with your surroundings and have a better understanding of what is taking place.”

In December, I had the opportunity to do a presentation at a large health clinic in my area.  One of the topics I spoke on was improving communication skills with co-workers and patients (their customers).

During the Q&A session one of the younger medical assistants raised her hand and asked, “What do I do when patients yell at me?”

I asked her for examples and she explained that many times in the clinic environment patients become angry or frustrated because of wait times or not being able to get prescriptions immediately.

These patients will become loud, belligerent and demanding.  She wanted to know what type of communication skills to use in this type of situation.

I have to tell you, my mouth dropped open as this sweet, young assistant was telling me about what she encounters on a fairly regular basis.

I asked her one simple question, “Who’s got your back?”  The room got very quite and this assistant started looking around at her co-workers, clinic physicians, and other administrative personnel.  They all had a blank look on their face.

One physician spoke up and said “I can handle those types of situations, so they are not a problem for me.”   He totally missed what this young woman’s question was and the problem she faced often.

Managers need to be listening to what is transpiring in the workplace with their staff members.  This is especially true when it comes to working with the public.  No employee should take abuse from any customer.  Managers need to cover their employee’s back; they must be ready to step in and rescue them if necessary.

Staff members need to have the security of knowing that they can call on their manager in difficult situations.  At this clinic it was every person for themselves, no one had anyone’s back.  If you got the brunt of someone’s anger you just took it.

I am happy to say that this medical assistant’s question resulted in a clinic-wide change in handling aggressive patients.  They are developing a system that will make sure that each person’s back is covered.

If you want to be a great manager, you need to cover your employee’s back.  Never allow them to take abuse from customers.  Have a system where they can notify you when a tough situation is taking place so you can step in and help diffuse it.  Be there for those you work with.


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