On a recent business trip, I overhead a manager talking with a recently-hired employee in her department, and here is part of this discussion:
Manager: Abby, you’ve been here one week. Tell me what you’ve learned.
Employee: Oh, Ms. Ramirez, where do I start?
Manager: What do you mean? Tell me more.
Employee: Well, you see, I know I was hired mainly because I have good Spanish-speaking skills. I can make sure our customers are comfortable when they walk in the door. I’ve been here only a week, and I want to speed up the learning process.
Manager: You were hired because you are an asset to our organization. We considered many different applicants before we hired you.
Employee: You’re so nice to say that, and I am delighted to have this opportunity. I liked working for SystemTech, but this position at Medic Professionals looked challenging to me. Also, when I interviewed here, the employees seemed happy, and I knew this was the right time for me to make a change.
Manager: I’m not always available during the day because of meetings and other administrative work. How do you keep yourself occupied?
Employee: Really, Ms. Ramirez, I don’t really try to stay occupied. Let me explain. Staying occupied to me means that I try to look busy even when I have nothing to do. I didn’t accept the position at Medic Professionals to waste time. In fact, I became interested in this position because I wanted to learn more about the health care industry. One friend told me he liked it because it gave him the opportunity to help people. In just one week, I can tell that I can make a difference.
Manager: Abby, please remind me, where did you work before coming here?
Employee: Ms. Ramirez, I worked for Hotel Intercontinental in Jackson. While this position is different from that one, I use the same approach. First, when the patient walks into the office, I make sure to smile. I want that person to feel comfortable, and to have someone who is ready to help him. Our patients have pressing problems, and it helps when we greet them and are prepared to help them.
Manager: How do you handle a patient who is upset?
Employee: Let’s me use an example from when I worked for the hotel. One customer was upset because a smoke alarm was triggered around 1 a.m. The customer was dead asleep, and he wasn’t happy the alarm awoke him. He called downstairs, and I answered the phone. He wanted the problem fixed right away. I informed him that I was the only person on duty, and could not leave the front desk. He didn’t like my response – at all!
Manager: What did you do?
Employee: I told the hotel guest to give me 5 minutes, and I would find a solution. I had the option to move the customer to a new room, but that was not a good option.
Manager: What did you go?
Employee: I decided to go against policy a bit. You know, I’m not supposed to leave the front desk unattended. However, I locked the front door, and even though I knew nothing about smoke alarms, I was going to give it a shot.
Manager: Did you figure it out?
Employee: The guest was surprised when I knocked on his door. Sure enough, the smoke alarm was blaring. I told him I new little about how to stop it from making the loud noise, but I was going to try. With my ladder in tow, I replaced the battery, and within a few minutes the problem was resolved.
Manager: Did you report the incident to your manager?
Employee: I documented the incident in my issue log, but the guest awoke very early, and approached my manager when he arrived at 6 a.m. The guest lost about an hour of sleep, but he was impressed that I bent the rules a bit to resolve the problem. He said, “You need to make sure and keep that employee. I can tell you there aren’t many like her.
When you find an employee who is accountable, you must do whatever possible to keep her on our team. Rules are rules, policies are policies, but you must ensure everyone is prepared to make gray area decisions.