Building the right attitude 

Caroline Mboijana, Managing Director, The Leadership Team (U). 

Dear Caroline, I recently had surgery at a hospital in town and I had an excellent team of doctors. I had to stay in the hospital for an additional five days post-surgery; however, my five days of experience were concerning, and more so because of the attitude of the staff looking after me. I am keen to give them feedback, but I need clarification on how the hospital has such success with the technical aspects of the business, but the client-patient care could be better. How can someone have such varying experiences? Susan
Dear  Susan, first of all, I hope you are recovering well.  A hospital is like any service delivery organisation, and the same principles  that apply in delivering customer service apply to client services.

When we talk about attitude, we talk about behaviour competence, which is all about how we behave in the workplace. It would be interesting to hear what you experienced; if you observed and experienced poor behaviour, then the starting point is like any other. Organisations first and foremost recruit talent; in hospitals, they are looking for the best in the medical field.

So, a hospital may have the best doctors who may not necessarily have the best bedside manners.  While this is the case, hospitals must ensure that their talent is equally balanced.

The question then becomes how. The employees must have a passion for what they do, and their values and those of the organisation must be aligned. In some cases, this misalignment exists, and when this is observed, intentional effort must be made to achieve the alignment. 

A way forward is to ensure that within the organisation, there is a clear definition of what the standards are and what is expected. In the case, it is assumed that bedside manners and behaviour are taught while training. This may be the case, but if it is not demonstrated in the workplace, it is not embedded, and staff may think it needs to be more critical.

Secondly, the hospital needs to have systems that allow people to receive feedback. In the case of the hospital, this can be from colleagues and patients. This feedback should then be used to improve the behaviour of the staff. It is equally important that the feedback received is also part of the staff performance review so that they are managed appropriately if staff need to demonstrate the required behaviour.  

Another intervention is to make sure teams have retreats and team buildings where they candidly open up and discuss their issues so that they recognise their challenges and then have a clear way forward. The leadership and management also have a crucial role in responding to staff concerns.

Sometimes, staff are frustrated with the work environment, and it may be due to small things like tools of trade not being available, so they don’t feel they can do their job correctly. Like many organisations, the attitude of the staff is highly influenced by the organisation’s culture. If the culture is poor, then that mindset trickles down to the staff.