Chances are you have encountered a situation or two where things may have been blown out of proportion. You may find yourself spending time and energy explaining situations to colleagues that were perceived as problems but were situations actually taken out of context.
We all remember the telephone game - how funny it was to hear the difference of the original message versus what it had become when passed along through several people. Unfortunately, this exists in the workplace as well. But it doesn’t have to. When you strategize and implement an effective communication process, these games – and the waste of time and resources – can be eliminated.
Here are four keys for effective communication in the workplace.
Put the situation in context
I was at a client site once when a colleague escalated an issue with certain accounts being flagged for needing a specific claim edit. After some additional research and analysis to discover the root problem, we discovered there were only two accounts being flagged and both due to user error. The lesson learned here was the importance of training your team to obtain the full story and facts before reporting up or outside of your department.
Here’s another example – the vendor we were working with kept making the statement to senior management there was a large sum of unposted payments. Now this could have very different meaning depending on the context. For instance if the large amount of unposted payments represented five percent of your monthly payment posting, this may not be an emergency, but, if it represented ninety percent of your monthly payment posting, it would be pretty alarming.
Now suppose we continue with the scenario where the large amount of unposted payments actually represents a large portion of your monthly payments – depending on the context it still not be an issue. Suppose you received several Electronic Remittance Advice (ERA) files but not all of the money associated with these files have been deposited into your bank account – you wouldn’t and shouldn’t post the ERA files until the money has been deposited. So someone can say there is a large amount of unposted payments but it would be taking the situation out of context and not hard to imagine the kind of reactions that situation would evoke. Context is critical. Be sure to get all the correct information before jumping to conclusions.
Request specific examples when a staff member reports an issue in order to do some due diligence
This goes along with putting the situation in context. Having tangible examples not only gives you a better idea of the situation, but ensures that your colleague understands why it is an issue as well. Having multiple examples ensures that this is a reoccurring problem that needs to be addressed and gives you a way to pinpoint the epicenter so you can solve it quickly and accurately without wasting time, resources, or having to track down colleagues to get the big picture of the problem.
Check and then double check
Soon after a recent go-live with a new Patient Accounting system, I asked a team member to work on some work queues in the new system. Her response was she did not have security access and at the time, we were dealing with a number of different security issues and because she had been trained on the new system I believed her. I submitted a request to the security team to grant the user access to the work queues only to find out afterwards she had access but wasn’t looking in the right place to find them. After that point, I checked and double checked any security-related requests before submitting them to the already burdened IT team.
Have a conversation, preferably in person, to help clarify a situation
In today’s fast-paced environment and busy schedules, email (or even texts) is the preferred method of communication but nothing beats a face-to-face meeting to build a connection and communicate effectively. When you communicate with your colleagues, ask them to explain the entire situation with examples and have them pause to allow for questions and clarifications.
We all know how busy working in healthcare can be – always putting out fires and addressing one crisis after another. But it should never be too busy for good communication. In fact, effective communication will help us all work more efficiently as a team.
For more information on effective change management, feel free to download our White Paper: 5 Steps to Healthcare Change Management.