Monday, February 28, 2005
On Respecting Differences, and Lack of Empathy in the Workplace
I've just posted on the site a new article by business consultant T.T. ("Mitch") Mitchell, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging diversity, particularly in the workplace, and respecting people who may be "different" in one way or another. As Mitch writes, good habits we develop at work regarding interpersonal relationships, will follow us once we get outside as well.
Nothing new about this of course, but something we cannot emphasize too much, so kudos to Mitch, who writes a regular newsletter on management skills.
It's imperative, of course, that our respect for someone who's "different" - or for any other human being for that matter - should be 100% genuine. As always, empathy is king! Nothing can be worse than a condescending or patronizing attitude to a human being who, for whatever reason, is in a weaker position than you are in the society in which you're living or working.
I was brought up in South Africa, where paternalism or patronization towards the underprivileged class used to be, unfortunately, a common behavioral problem.
Communication with subordinates - if they happened to belong to this unfortunate stratum of society - was often limited to abrupt commands that were either loud and offensive, or pretentious and patronizing.
Housewives would sometimes insist on being addressed by their domestic servants as "Madam." They would issue such inane instructions as "Madam would like some tea now... please bring it to Madam."
The hapless servant, long accustomed to being treated as a child, would often show his or her insecurity by being excessively polite or flattering. He would then be accused of hypocrisy or calculating behavior. If, on the other hand, he would speak confidently or correctly, he would be branded as an upstart, showing impudence and arrogance.
The amazing thing was that the employer, as far removed from the servant's fears, aspirations and uncertainties as the moon is to the earth, would scratch his head and wonder why the poor laborer never took any pride in his work!
What do you say?
BTW, if you're about to apply for a job and think you might have to confront unreasonable prejudice, this is an article you'll want to read:
How to Overcome Job Interview Bias
Labels: the workplace
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Caution: Are You and Your Doctor on the Same Wavelength?
Most important: please add your own comments below each post. Only your participation will make this blog work!
In my article How Invisible Communication Barriers Kill Productivity, I wrote about how disturbances of various types - both real and psychological - interefere with the way messages are received. On this subject, I often think of a joke that was going the rounds some while back - only now I'm wondering whether it's perhaps more than a joke...
The story goes that a fellow walked into a doctor's office and the receptionist asked him what he had. He said, "Shingles." So she took down his name, address and other personal particulars and told him to have a seat..
A few minutes later a nurse's aid came out and asked him what he had. He said, "Shingles." So she took down his height, weight, a complete medical history and told him to wait in the examining room.
Ten minutes later a nurse came in and asked him what he had. He said, "Shingles." So she gave him a blood test, a blood pressure test, an electrocardiogram, told him to take off all his clothes and wait for the doctor.
Fifteen minutes later the doctor came in and asked him what he had. He said, "Shingles." The doctor said, "Where?"
He said, "Outside in the truck. Where do you want them?"
OK...That's the product of a fertile imagination and a healthy (pardon the pun!) sense of humor. But what do you say about this - apparently - true story cited in a revealing newspaper article posted on the website of the Faculty of Medicine of Dalhousie University in Canada.
A guy went to see his doctor about his painful skin lesions. "It's trichophyton," the brisk young physician told him. "It's a bad case . You've probably got six weeks, seven at the most.."
The patient, a 56-year-old building contractor who prided himself on his toughness, didn't flinch and didn't bother with the prescription the doctor scribbled down. He summoned his four sons to his home, grimly announced that he was dying and exhorted them to be brave as he handed out copies of his will.
Fortunately, the youngest son was a pre-med student and he asked what he had been diagnosed with. His Dad pronounced the strange term to the best of his ability and the young man split his sides with laughter.
"Dad," he finally gasped, "That's athletes foot. Didn't he tell you?"
While this is clearly an extreme case, almost everyone, concludes the writer, "has had the experience of leaving a doctor's office dazed, worried, or just plain mystified at the scrawled prescription in their hand. Most physicians admit they often miss the chance to educate their patients."
Maybe it should be the other way around: perhaps it's time for us, as patients, to educate our doctors? Check out this article on our site that handles this topic very well: How to Communicate With Your Doctor .
So what do you think?
Some of our other articles on the issue of problems arising from defective communication:
Labels: interpersonal relationships