Into the Fire
Poor Communication Turns Up the Heat in the Office
How do staff problems affect Ben’s chiropractic practice?
“Ben? Can I talk to you about something serious?”
Ben turned to his wife in surprise. Carmen was usually easygoing, taking a relaxed attitude even in serious situations.
“Of course. What’s up?”
“It’s the girls at the pizzeria.” Like many pizza places, Ben knew, Carmen’s had lots of part-time help, including students and musicians who needed a day job. The work tended to be fun and casual, even though Carmen ran a tight ship. She had a lot of turnover — what restaurant didn’t? — but she rarely had staffing problems.
“I’m usually the one complaining about my staff,” Ben said. “You go with the flow.”
“I know,” Carmen agreed. “I think we’re a happy workplace, and the systems are organized enough that the people can relax. But we have this new delivery guy…”
Carmen hesitated. “Spit it out!” joked Ben.
“Well, okay, he’s really cute. Whenever he’s in the shop, the girls hang out near him, flirting, instead of doing their work.”
Ben couldn’t help laughing. “That’s your employee problem? Listen, I have staff absences, paperwork backing up, information silos that mean we constantly have questions that can’t be answered because the only person who knows the answer is off –”
“You aren’t even listening!” Carmen objected. “I can’t bring this up with the girls without insulting them, and I can’t bring it up with the new guy at all. I can’t fire him for being too cute –”
“Sorry, Carmen,” Ben insisted, “you don’t know what staff problems are if your idea of a staff problem is how to avoid hurting somebody’s feelings. My people are competent, but there doesn’t seem to be enough communication among them to keep the paperwork and billing going smoothly. We end up looking bad to the clients because their files can’t be found, or missing out on billings because the paperwork has errors. Those are staff problems.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Carmen said. “Those do sound like more serious problems. Are you paying enough attention to your workers?”
“That’s part of the problem, I’m sure,” Ben admitted. “I’m in with patients all day. I don’t have time to oversee the staff, and I guess they all have a lot of freedom to set up their own systems…”
Carmen laughed. “If everyone just does what he or she wants, you can’t call it a system.”
“Well at least I’ve got you laughing,” Ben said. “Listen, just tell your people to get back to work. You’re letting your embarrassment over the situation make it seem more difficult than it is.”
As they got ready for bed, though, Ben was wondering. If that was the biggest staff problem Carmen faced in her business, why was he constantly troubled by staff problems in his?