Urgent message: A manager’s words are important to employees, which is why sensitivity is required to avoid small talk being acted upon as unintended suggestions or demands.
Alan A. Ayers, MBA, MAcc is Chief Executive Officer of Velocity Urgent Care and is Practice Management Editor of The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine.
When most people think of wasted time at the office, their mind automatically goes to an employee sitting behind a desk browsing the web or playing computer solitaire. In reality, one of the biggest wastes of employees’ time may be coming from their bosses. Unfortunately, most bosses don’t even know the impact of their actions on productivity. For urgent care owner/operators, it’s highly important to not only be aware of this phenomenon but to actively work to prevent it from happening.
When the Boss Talks, People Listen
The most common way this boss-related time wasting occurs is when the boss talks. Now, the boss does a lot of talking, as he should. After all, he’s the boss and needs to talk in order to run, lead, and guide the company. Of course, people listen to directives and discussions with him and they should be taking time to ensure that those initiatives are met. The boss simply talking doesn’t equal a waste of time. The problem arises when the boss issues orders without knowing it.
An article published in The Wall Street Journal relayed a story about one boss who casually mentioned that there were no blueberry muffins at a company meeting. After this, the employees went out of their way to ensure that blueberry muffins were present at every meeting that followed. The boss never intended the comment to be an order or request; he simply was making conversation. In fact, he really didn’t even like blueberry muffins. Regardless of how he intended the comments to come across, they ultimately resulted in a waste of employee time for years as they went out of their way to buy or request the muffins.
This is just one small, relatively innocuous example of how a boss can inadvertently waste employees’ time.
Urgent care owner and operators should take care to ensure that their comments are not being overinterpreted or overreacted to. Since the urgent care business deals with fast-paced, high-level healthcare, comments can be made in the heat of the moment without thought. These could spark new initiatives or directives, or result in purchase of new equipment and supplies that are wholly unnecessary, a waste of time, and completely unintended. Owners/operators should be both conscious of what they are saying and be sure to always specify when they are giving a directive vs when they are simply making a comment or observation.
How Urgent Care Owner/Operators Can Stop Wasting Employees’ Time
Imagine if every comment you made about how your urgent care center is run was automatically translated into an official directive. This would result in costly changes, unneeded training, and mountains of paperwork. As the boss, staying aware of this can help ensure your words are interpreted as they should be and that your employees can remain focused on their core responsibilities rather than trying to respond to a misinterpreted comment.
Along with staying aware of how and what you say, urgent care owner/operators should master the art of delegation. By refusing to delegate tasks, you can inadvertently cause a backup in your facility’s workflow and make life much more difficult for your employees. By properly delegating tasks—while avoiding over-delegation—you can help make your urgent care center’s workflow stay smooth and up-to-pace and keep employees from wasting time.
Finally, bosses should intentionally and actively listen to what their employees have to say. For example, if you ask someone to prepare a report about something or ask for their professional opinion on an issue, you should listen with an open mind. You should be prepared to act based on what you have listened to rather than simply listening passively, as well. If employees know that their work is meaningful enough for their boss to listen to, they are less likely to waste time on preparing something that is modified to sound like something you would want to hear; instead, they will work hard to ensure that an informative, actionable job is done.
By actively listening and acting upon what you hear, you can help ensure employee time is being spent on meaningful tasks that will help advance the company.