Rude behavior in the workplace might cost you good employees. Even worse, though, a new study indicates the consequences of incivility extend to patients. In a blog post for The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Gurpreet Dhaliwal, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and a practicing physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, describes what happened when clinical staff participating in an Israeli training exercise were broken into 24 pairs of teams, with half being introduced to the exercise by an intentionally rude visiting physician and the second team by a physician who provided neutral comments. The rude physician told his teams he was not impressed with the quality of medicine he’d seen them provide, and that the staff “wouldn’t last a week” in his department back home. Both sets of teams were then presented with a case featuring a premature newborn suffering with necrosis of the intestines, complete with an anatomically correct mannequin. The teams that had been briefed by the rude physician made significantly more diagnostic and treatment errors. Further, video recordings showed less collaboration and poorer communication among those team members. The authors of the study concluded that the way people respond to rudeness affects working memory, which helps direct planning, analysis, and pursuit of goals cognitively. For his part, Dr. Dhaliwal reflected that a workplace’s culture is defined by “the worst behavior that a leader will tolerate.” Determining how that applies in your urgent care center will require suspending any preconceived notions you have about your own perceptions and taking an honest look at interactions. While that can be uncomfortable, the benefits—ensuring your location is one where employees feel respected and where patients are most likely to get the care they need—outweigh and outlast any cringe-worthy moments, however.
How Colleagues Treat Each Other Affects Quality of Care—and Outcomes