It is always amazing to witness how communication between coworkers can break down and become total misunderstandings. This was the situation at an office that needed a certain piece of medical equipment for a patient and found they did not have any in stock. 

When the assistant in charge of inventory was asked why there were none of this item and size in stock, they responded with "I was told not to purchase any in that size because we do not use them often enough.” The office manager had a hard time believing anyone would say this because for the last 20 years the office always had at least one size of each item in stock at all times. 

Whatever the reason was, this person heard something different from what they were told and made a mistake not to have one item in each size on hand. So now what? Now, we move forward and correct the mistake and gain a clear understanding for the needs of the office. Time could be spent arguing over what was said to whom, but would that solve the current problem? It would just become a battle of who said what to whom.

Communication breakdowns do happen and if we spend more time trying to prove who heard what wrong, then a lot of time will be wasted, and time is money.

In such a situation, the parties must agree to disagree and realize that these things happen. The situation needs to be fixed and a protocol put in place that spells out the inventory control clearly.

It is important for all parties to realize we all are human and there will be times we say the wrong thing, misinterpret things incorrectly, and have something totally different on our mind that we really do not hear or respond to correctly. 

How can we help from having these communication breakdowns?  Here are three helpful ideas:

1. Ask the person to repeat what you have asked of them so you can make sure they fully understood what you said and what the expectation is.

2. If you hear a response that seems "strange" to you, or is different than what you expected, ask for clarification so you know you heard and understood correctly.

3. Write questions or responses down at the time you are communicating with another as a reference to what was said. Remember, we are all very busy and sometimes we totally forget what transpired and do not remember exactly how conversations really went.

These three simple steps will help when a question arises about a situation and clarification is needed. Most of all, remember we all will be the cause of some sort of communication breakdown at one time or another, so go easy on each other when these things happen.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

For more ideas and help regarding managing a successful medical practice, find out more about the Top Practices Practice Management Institute. It may be just what you need to build the practice you want.
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