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Reading time: 3:00

I took my mom to an oral surgeon’s office. We walked into the office and the front desk staff all welcomed us with a smile. They looked at us as soon as we walked in, even if they were on the phone. After greeting us, the staff completed the requisite paperwork quickly. But, what impressed me even more was the nice, easy camaraderie between members of the staff. It was immediately evident.

I could tell that they enjoyed their work and that they worked well together. I saw staff members volunteer help to a colleague. They treated each other with respect and assisted each other. No one acted upset or as if they were inconvenienced by co-workers or patients. The staff was warm and responsive in all their communications with us and with each other. We never felt neglected or as if we were interfering with their work. Instead, we felt like we were the most important part of their job.

There was nothing particularly different in the office set-up. Yet, our experience in this office stood out as exceptional from the start. What they did was standard operating procedure for most offices. But, what stood out was the way it was done. The staff were kind, considerate and caring. They were attentive to us, but also to their co-workers. They made us feel like we were special and our needs were important to them. We never felt like we were one of the many nameless number of patients that had passed through their office that day, that week, that month. We felt like we mattered.

Contrast that experience to a blog written by my sister, Susan Stang. She is an industrial psychologist and the blog is titled “Your culture speaks volumes”. I quote her blog here.

“I was at the doctor’s office the other day waiting to pay. I waited for over 40 minutes and while I waited, I noticed. I noticed that the employees were painfully polite with each other. Rarely interacting, never smiling, careful not to step on each other’s’ toes. There was little interaction between them, and none with me. Although I was standing at the counter, no one suggested I take a seat, no one told me that I was in for a wait, no one explained the delay, no one reassured me that the payment would be processed soon. It was quiet, oddly so.

Yesterday, I went to a colleague’s office to coordinate work on a joint project. Unexpectedly, he was not available, and so I met with two of his staff instead. Two people I had never met before. They were friendly, warm, enthusiastic, and open with each other and with me- exceptionally so.

These events got me thinking about corporate culture. Clearly the two offices, similar in size, had very different cultures…and very different effects on me. One I will, if possible, never visit again while the other I will be happy to return to. What does your company casually convey to others? It is a message well worth considering and not easily forgotten.”

I am embarrassed to admit that the doctor’s office she described was one in which I worked. I know that she did not exaggerate since I saw this scenario play out time and time again on a daily basis. I had no control over it and the owner was unwilling to even listen to suggestions from any of the staff on how to improve the office and flow of patients.

I also know that the staff involved were good people who knew their jobs, but were beaten down by a negative work environment. It was an oppressive, toxic environment. I heard similar unsolicited comments from patients on many occasions. I felt helpless to explain to patients or tell them that it would change. There was nothing I could say that would justify the negative attitudes or the treatment they received. Don’t think for a moment that patients don’t pick up on a negative energy from you and your staff. They see and sense that staff is not happy and the environment is tense.

Take a close look at your office with unbiased eyes. Do your staff interact with each other in a positive way? Do they help each other or are they always looking for other’s mistakes and faults? Do they blame each other or take responsibility when something goes wrong? And perhaps the hardest question of all- do you contribute to the energy of the office and in a good or bad way? These are tough questions, but so important to your success and the impression you create for your patients.

It’s hard to admit that the culture of your office is less than ideal. But, if you don’t recognize it, you can’t fix it. A team effort is required, but the benefits to you, your staff and your patients are immeasurable.

Look for future blogs with ideas on how to positively affect your office culture. Visit our Facebook page for other ideas as well.

Leave your comments below on how you have dealt with problems in your office culture. We look forward to hearing your ideas or solutions for problems you have encountered.

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