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INSIGHT

Accountability is a two-way street for medical office managers

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

One pitfall that’s tough to avoid is human nature. Call it psychology or individual weakness, it almost always comes down to traps that you should avoid.

One of the easiest things to stumble over involves seemingly straightforward missteps that can have an office manager labeled “hypocritical.” Seldom is this more on display than in areas that involve accountability.

Business and organizational mentors often stress accountability. They’re right to do so. Staff members must know up front that they will be responsible not only for their work, but their behavior. It’s part of what it takes to maintain a productive office and, ultimately, that’s one of the first priorities of any successful organization.

But accountability is a two-way street. Not only do good managers model the behavior they expect, they also maintain the desired environment with their own accountability as much as they expect it from staff members. But accountability can be difficult for anyone, including managers.

One example is a manager who lost the trust of her office personnel when she discussed inappropriate and confidential matters relating to one staff member with another. Not surprisingly, that created serious problems in the office.

This manager might have thought the first person would take it as a compliment when he or she was being taken into the manager’s confidence. It never works that way. That person will immediately wonder if the manager is also sharing personal or inappropriate information about them with others. Employees are smart enough to know that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. The staff member will wonder, “If our office manager is saying this or that to me about others, then what is she saying to others about me?”

By doing this, all trust is lost. The manager’s credibility is forfeited because good managers don’t do this. At best, it looks like a key person in the medical office is engaging in gossip. At worst, the manager looks like a manipulator and someone who sows divisiveness.

What should have happened? The manager should have resisted the urge to divulge private information or insights into the ranks—almost always a bad idea. In good management, confidentialities must be honored. People must be able to trust their managers to hold some information as confidential.

There are legal reasons for this as well. When managers cannot be trusted to hold certain things in confidence, when staff feels that their leaders cannot be counted on to be discreet, then the very fabric of the organization can be torn. There is nothing more fundamental than trust. Once a manager loses it, it is difficult to reclaim.

If a manager slips—and we are all human—consider it an opportunity to right a wrong and to focus on what should have happened. “I may have said something the other day that was inappropriate. I don’t accept that from anyone in our office, including myself. I hope you will accept my apology.”

Good managers know that being fair and consistent is important, whether the topic is accountability or something else. It’s not always easy, but it’s important.


Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit www.laborgroup.com or call (913) 927-0229.


The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.

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