Sunday, October 27, 2019

Rooting out bad behavior at the front desk

When clients go to visit health care providers at their neighborhood health clinic, they must first check in with the receptionist at the front desk. The receptionist then alerts the person with whom the client has an appointment. The health care professional comes out to greet the client in the reception area and then leads him or her back to the office where the appointment will take place.

Generally, the process goes smoothly. But a few weeks ago, one of the health care professionals (let's call her Constance) was taken aback after she led a client back to her office, settled in, and listened as her client recounted a troubling exchange with the receptionist.

According to the client, the receptionist checked her in, then asked her how she liked working with Constance. After the client told her she liked working with her just fine, the receptionist responded that she was just checking because some clients don't like working with her. Constance was unnerved by the report, but she managed to stay focused on the client's needs during the rest of the session.

Once the session was over and the client left, Constance consulted a colleague to tell her what had happened and to ask her if she knew who the receptionist might have been. Given that two people regularly check people in, and different receptionists work throughout the week, Constance was not sure who the person was. More importantly, she wasn't sure why the receptionist said what she did to her client.

"No one's ever complained to me about being hard to work with," writes Constance. "But even if they complained to others, it seems wrong for the receptionist to have said something like she did about me."

Constance is not entirely sure what, if anything, to do. She could let the whole issue go without saying anything, but she writes that beyond troubling her that her own reputation was called into question, there might exist the possibility that this particular receptionist is violating the confidentiality of clients who regularly visit the health clinic.

"But I also don't want to drag the client who told me what happened into this," Constance writes. "What's the right thing to do?"

Constance has every right and reason to be concerned about client confidentiality. And it isn't petty for her to simply be upset over the fact that the receptionist allegedly painted a negative picture of her to one of her clients. Such behavior is totally inappropriate.

If Constance is not certain which receptionist made the comment, the right thing would be to let the person who manages the receptionists know what happened. She needn't involve her client if she wants to protect her privacy. The right thing for the manager to do is to let everyone who is working the desk know that such behavior as reported is inappropriate. Even more importantly, the health care clinic management would be wise to revisit how it trains the staff, including the receptionists, who interact with the clients.

Bad-mouthing professionals in such a setting, even in the guise of idle curiosity, is wrong. It diminishes the capability of people like Constance to do her job well and puts clients in uneasy positions. It's best to root out such behavior. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Is a simple act of kindness enough?

When he stepped onto the subway car, a reader, we'll call him Bart, could tell right away that a fellow passenger was having some issues with mobility. The man sitting in a seat next to one of the doors "shouted out to ask what station the train was stopped at," writes Bart. Bart saw the man held two tall walking canes taped together, the kind of canes typically used by people who had impaired vision.

As the train continued, Bart noticed the same behavior at each stop. At the fifth stop, Bart arrived at his destination. When the doors opened, he let about a half-dozen others leave the train and then exited the doors himself. Only a few steps out of the door he heard the man with two canes tapping them against the door as he tried to exit.

Bart walked back to the train door, held his hand against the door so it wouldn't start to close before the man had fully exited, telling the man what he was doing. The man thanked him.

"If you turn to your left you'll be heading toward the exit," Bart writes that he told the man. The exit was a good 50 yards away from where Bart and the man exited the train. When the man still seemed disoriented, Bart asked him if he wanted to take his arm so Bart could lead him to the station's exit. Again, the man thanked him and took Bart's arm.

They walked slowly and as they did the man told Bart that he was homeless, that his family lived in a different state, and that he didn't want to burden them. But he also told him that he came to this stop on the subway because a local restaurant often offered him a hot meal. He let Bart know that he appreciated his help and asked if he could guide him to the door to the public restroom, which Bart agreed to do.

As he was saying goodbye and had begun walking away, the man said to Bart, "You told me you could help with some money." Bart writes that he knew the man was homeless and in need, but they'd never talked about money. "I told him to have a good day and I walked off."

Bart now wonders if it was wrong to leave a person who seemed so clearly in need without having given him some money. "It was more that I was taken aback after helping him off the train and to the restroom," writes Bart. "I felt like I was being accused of lying to him and I just wanted to leave. His need for money was pretty likely more than any discomfort I felt."

Bart did the right thing by helping the man get off the train. That the man was walking quite close to the train tracks after getting off the train makes his act even more admirable. He has no reason to feel guilty about not giving the man money. If he had that would have been fine, but that he took the time to ensure the man's safety and get him to where he wanted to go was a kind act in and of itself. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
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