The Economist in an attempt to draw some kind of ‘focus’ has a blog post from an NHS hospital administrator. I have to say, it made me squirm somewhat.
The author seems to be erring on the pernicious side to say the least. S/He is carrying out an important function but seems to have a chip on his/her shoulder about being caught up in the general perception of hatred directed at the public sector.
And the poor admin worker has developed a ‘persecution complex’.
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It’s hard not to be too mean about the author but the Economist obviously picked wisely for someone to say exactly what they wanted him/her to say.
Now, I know this is going to sound twee, but I have an incredible amount of respect for our admin workers. We have a very hard-working team and one of them in particular shows almost inhuman amounts of patience and kindness that I admire beyond anyone else in that office!
We could not work without them and every time an admin hour is cut, about three ‘front line’ hours are taken up by trying to combat systems we have no idea how to work efficiently.
So that aside, the chip on the shoulder of the admin worker that the Economist found, is the size of a Californian Redwood.
S/He seems to defend his/her rudeness to patients
Earlier this week, for example, I had a call from a very angry patient. It wasn’t clear why he was so enraged, but it was pretty clear very soon after picking up the phone that whatever the reason, I wasn’t to blame and probably couldn’t do anything about it. So, after trying to tell him this more than once, and warning him that if he didn’t stop shouting I was going to stop trying to talk to him, I put the phone down on him while he was in mid-rant.
I attended my ‘customer care’ day as a part of my induction – yes, all social workers go through it. We saw it as a bit of a joke but actually, I took one of my most important lessons from it.
Firstly, if someone is angry, apologies are often useful – even if you are not personally responsible, you can diffuse a lot of anger by apologising for the way that person is feeling or by apologising for the way the organisation is treating them without accepting personal responsibilities.
The last thing in the world you want to hear if you are angry is someone saying ‘It’s nothing to do with me’. A quiet ‘I’m sorry you feel it’s been so difficult.’ goes a long way in diffusing some of the initial rant.
I say this both as an social worker and believe me, NHS administrator, if you have such a giant issue about the way your role is perceived, try a few hours in social services, at least everyone understands the importance of hospitals, but also as someone who has been known to phone up services with complaints and felt fobbed off.
Whatever Trust this employee works for has a job on their hands and clearly hasn’t thought about even the most basic customer fronting training. No, we don’t work in the private sector but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn about how to treat people as human beings and an awareness that just if we aren’t personally responsible for their distress and anger, we can take some kind of corporate front.
The sad thing is that firstly, the comments are full of people saying ‘oh, this is why we need a private healthcare system where employees know their places’! Hrmm.
And that this does a massive disservice to the excellent and thoughtful administrative staff who do fantastic jobs with kindness and politeness.
The cynic in me says the Economist found the perfect stooge to portray the public sector through whatever the opposite of ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ is!