Back when I served as Clinic Administrator of a major medical practice in Houston, I initiated an intern program for high school students. The plan was to introduce young men and women from Houston Independent School District (HISD) to the healthcare industry.
After interviewing several candidates, I decided that Monica was the best fit for the job. She was 17-years-old, and a good student. During the interview, she reinforced her desire to pursue a position in the medical field. In all, she had the best qualifications.
For the most part, Monica performed good work. She was assigned mostly routine work, but I also asked her to assist me with management duties, such as preparing my presentation to the doctors at the monthly meeting. In essence, Monica was gaining excellent experience regarding the day-to-day operations of a medical practice.
The “Wrinkles” Story
Diane was a 50-something lady who worked as our executive secretary. She was a nice lady, and a descent employee. However, she confided in me that her two previous failed marriages had taken a toll on her, and she was concerned that her age showed too much. While she didn’t tell me directly, I’m sure she was unhappy about the many wrinkles that appeared on her face. Nonetheless, she was meticulous about her attire, and was a sophisticated woman.
One morning, while I was reviewing an Accounts Receivable report, Diane walked into my office nearly in tears.
Me: What’s wrong, Diane?
Diane: I’m so upset with Monica!
Me: What happened?
Diane: This morning she greeted me with, “Good morning, Wrinkles!”
[Yikes! This is not good! I’m not exactly sure what to say in this situation. It’s not often this issue arises.]
Me: Well, Diane … are you sure that is what she said?
Diane: Yes. She thought it was funny.
Me: Well, it’s definitely not funny, and I can see how it offended you. I will make sure and have a talk with her.
Diane: She really doesn’t do good work around here. We should find someone else.
Diane left my office in tears, and I sat at my desk thinking how I would raise this issue with Monica. The fact is that Monica was wrong for calling Diane “Wrinkles.” However, she was a young lady, and perhaps unaware of the harm this comment would cause.
With this opening, Diane decided to raise the ante and ask me to fire Monica. While the young intern had room for improvement, her work was adequate. I suppose Diane was basing her decision on emotion, and I could hardly blame her.
Around mid-morning, I called Monica to my office, and we discussed the situation. After explaining to her that Diane that was hurt by the insult, she understood the impact, and apologized to Diane later in the day.
Unfortunately, and despite the apology, their relationship remained strained. Monica completed the summer program and moved on to her senior year in high school. Diane, on the other hand, is even more self-conscious of the wrinkles on her face.