Recently I was speaking for a group of dental professionals when the subject of cell phone use came up. Normally when this topic arises, employers are seeking advice on cell phone policies for their employees. However, this time it was in reference to patient use and I found the conversation fascinating!
The Baby Boomer dentist shared this story with the group: During a routine afternoon of appointments he walked into an exam room and found his patient distracted on her cell phone. Infuriated, he left the room and went to the front desk where he asked the receptionist for the patient’s cell phone number. He then proceeded to text the patient the message: “When you are off your cell phone I’m ready to see you.”
Most everyone in the room chuckled-including me.
When he went back to the exam room a few minutes later he found the patient no longer on her phone, and he continued the exam without incident.
Suddenly the room was abuzz with comments about how that was “ingenious and brilliant” on his part. Then a third year dental student raised her hand to speak. She was sitting with several other dental students who all seemed perplexed at what they’d just heard. She asked if the dentist would have done the same thing if the patient had been reading a magazine or book when he walked in. What if, in fact, she’d been reading a book or magazine article on her PHONE when he’d walked in the first time? Would that have made him feel or react differently?
This time the room fell silent.
She reminded the entire group that the cell phone today has taken the place of many things we used to occupy our waiting time with-such as magazines and books. Thanks to her speaking up, we all learned a valuable lesson about making assumptions, rushing to judgment, and about how technology today allows us to do many of the same things we did in the past, just though a different medium.
This reminder is helpful not only in how we view our customers, but also our co-workers and colleagues of a different generation. The next time a workplace conflict comes up related to technology, take a moment to evaluate if maybe there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Many a conflict can be resolved simply by asking the right questions and assuming the best about the people involved. Don’t make the same mistake as our angry dentist!
Leah Brown is a Talent Retention Strategist for Crescendo Strategies, a Louisville-based firm committed to reducing unnecessary employee turnover for clients across multiple industries. Leah is a contributing author to the recently released book, Staying Power: Why Your Employees Leave and How to Keep Them Longer, available on Amazon