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When Romance Blooms at Your Medical Practice


Wondering how to handle unexpected drop-ins at work? Worried about romance at work? Let the Civility CEO help.

Dear Sue,

My parents sacrificed nearly everything to support me through medical school, and they subsequently helped finance my practice. I am eternally grateful. The problem is they seem to think it's OK to drop by my clinic whenever they please. I know this sounds awful, but their unexpected visits sometimes irritate me and always interrupt the flow. I realize they're proud of me, but how can I ask them to stop their spontaneous socializing without being disrespectful?

Guilty Party

Dear Guilty Party,

Your mom and dad's generosity and dedication helped get you where you are. So did your own hard work and commitment. While they've earned their pride, you've earned your privacy.

It sounds like seeing you in action brings your parents much joy, and rightfully so. That's why putting an end to their visits will be more than challenging; it will also be emotional and potentially detrimental to your relationship. So let's look at this from a more positive perspective: collaborating with your parents to come up with a workable alternative to their impromptu drop-ins.

Start by setting time aside to have a frank and loving

conversation with your folks. I suggest you do this somewhere private, like their home or yours. Let them know how much you appreciate all they've done for you and how grateful you are for their ongoing support. Then get down to business by voicing your concerns. Remember to focus on the issue (interrupted work flow), and not the individuals (your parents).

Be honest. Talk about how wonderful it is to see your combined dreams of success come true. Mention that you understand how pleased they must feel when they witness your achievements in person. Then tell your mom and dad that because your practice is thriving your time is at a premium. Success brings limitations, and you need to inform them that as much as you'd like to visit, during working hours your patients are your priority.

Honor your parents by offering one of three solutions. First, suggest that from now on they call or text in advance to see if you have time to visit. Second, ask them to come at a regularly scheduled time so you can make sure you're available for a few minutes. Or third, include them in other ways, like inviting them to come by for coffee or lunch once or twice a month. Allow them to choose which alternative they prefer.

The longer you let this go, the harder it will be to deal with. Gain control over the situation today by working with your parents on a mutually beneficial solution.

Dear Sue,

I'm beginning to suspect that a pharmaceutical representative who calls on my clinic wants to market more than medicine. In fact, I get the distinct feeling he's interested in one of my staff members. Though he's otherwise professional, this drug rep's flirtatious behavior has me flummoxed. How should I handle this situation?

Flustered Physician

Dear Flustered Physician,

While it's good to listen to your instincts, it's best not to jump to any conclusions before doing some fact-finding in this circumstance. And that fact-finding needs to begin with your staff member.

First, observe her response to the pharmaceutical representative's demeanor. Does your employee appear to be uncomfortable? Is the rep's charm being reciprocated? Are professional boundaries being compromised?

Next, find out if your employee feels awkward or disrespected when the drug rep is present. You can do this by having a private discussion. Here is an example of how to start the conversation: "I'm wondering how you feel when _____ comes by the clinic on his sales calls. I've observed that some of his comments and actions could be interpreted as crossing the line from professional to personal. You are my priority, so please be honest with me and tell me if his behavior is having a negative impact on you. Either way, I'm going to be talking with him about my observations. I support you, and I wanted to let you know where things stand so you don't feel uncomfortable."

Now it's time to share your perceptions with the pharmaceutical representative. This is between you and him, so leave your employee out of it. Simply suggest that, while you regard his affable nature, you expect him to display an exemplary level of professionalism with you and your staff. Tell him his delightful decorum can sometimes be misinterpreted as overly sociable and that from now on you prefer to keep things more businesslike.

If your employee's productivity isn't being negatively impacted, there are no feelings of discomfort, and your practice is running smoothly, the aforementioned conversation may be the only step you need to take. On the other hand, if the drug rep's conduct is deemed to be inappropriate, you'll need to bring it up with him and his sales manager so it doesn't continue. If it does, ask for another representative to be assigned to you.

Keep in mind that there's always a chance that an authentic romantic relationship may be budding between your staff member and the salesman. It's common to meet our future spouses at work. I met my husband in a morgue; proof positive that you never know where true love may bloom!

Sue Jacques, The Civility CEO®, is a veteran forensic medical investigator turned corporate civility consultant, keynote speaker, and author. Jacques helps people and practices gain confidence, earn respect, and prosper through professionalism by creating courteous corporate cultures. She can be reached at info@TheCivilityCEO.com.

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Physicians Practice.

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