July 3, 2013

Is Respect & Compassion cost-effective?

It was a physical sensation to see the announcement today that the main provision of the healthcare bill is to be delayed by two more years. Somewhere between nausea and vertigo. Granted, that is often my baseline, but seeing a hard-fought and much-compromised healthcare coverage be denied to people yet again is heartbreaking. And enraging. And frustrating beyond description.
And it got me thinking about the employment climate in this country, how employees are instructed and expected to treat customers versus how they are treated by their employers. And why the huge disconnect there seems to be ignored by all the folks selling the latest-and-greatest-new-marketing- strategy-to-increase-productivity-and-lower-costs. Why is it that you are sitting for hours at the computer doing the mandatory inservice on "Quality Customer Service", being tested on how to treat customers in a manner completely unlike the way you are treated by your employer?
Working in the medical field, I have seen a strong movement away from compassion in healthcare - both compassion towards patients and compassion towards caregivers and fellow employees. At some point we decided that compassion looked too much like paternalism or patronization, so it got thrown out with the bathwater and replaced with Autonomy and Responsibility.

[This has led us to the situation of the physician with the medical degree and years of experience telling a patient their diagnosis and possible treatment options and then asking them to decide what to do! Making them take on the responsibility of deciding on often complex treatment options in the name of "self-determination" or (heaven help us) "buy-in". This is terribly fashionable among providers, and hated by patients - they are paying for healthcare from trained providers and expect a damn sight better than they could get from a google search. Ok, exaggeration for effect, but still. Damn. Do your job.]

In all businesses, treating your employees like irresponsible criminals who are going to flake off or rob you if given half a chance tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Responsible, professional adults won't stay, the folks who do are the ones who either just don't care or who see robbing you as a personal challenge. Either way, you and your customers lose.
If you treat employees like they are lying when they call in sick, like they fake injury on the job, like that death in the family was probably just a vacation, monitor their bathroom breaks, monitor their email, monitor their phone times, are more concerned with clocking in and out on the minute than the quality of work... how can you expect them to treat your customers differently?
If I tell you that I do not value you enough to provide you with medical care, but I will fire you if you call out sick too much? That the state says I don't HAVE to pay you more than minimum wage, so I won't? That our corporation does not provide childcare on-site, but we will fire you if you have to leave because of childcare issues too often?
BUT: "We strive to provide the highest service to all our valued customers and treat them with respect."
What does all this have to do with the Healthcare bill? Or are you just rambling?
Here's the thing. Our culture has become Corporate Culture. It has infused everything. Our expectations, our lifestyles, and even our healthcare. The attitudes, the philosophy, and the dehumanizing effect of being treated as just another unit, another number, another interchangeable part to be slotted in or discarded at the corporate whim.
The thing is that corporations that have tried doing it the other way, treating employees respectfully and compassionately? Wind up with happier customers. And better employee retention to boot! Funny that.

No comments: