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Silly problems, silly solutions boost morale at Georgia practice

For the small problems inherent in any office’s staff, one manager has two easy solutions – humor and once-a-day positive notes.

The humor comes in the form of silly contests to solve equally silly – though very human – problems. They’re nonsensical, “but they reduce tension,” says Nadine Cook, office manager for Family Price Care, a one-physician, 13 staff practice in Tifton, GA.

One, for example, was an ongoing complaint that nobody replaced the toilet paper rolls in the lavatory. So Cook told staff to write their names on every empty roll they changed and drop it in a bag in her office. But she didn’t tell them why.

At the end of the month, she made a crown out of the rolls and named the staffer who had the most Queen of the Toilet Paper. The prize was a package of toilet paper and a gift card to Walmart.

Then she read out the number of rolls for each person. And that, she says, identified the culprits – without naming anybody.

Problem solved.

As for the positive notes, Cook has hung a board in the break room. One side is dry erase, and the other is cork.

On the white side, she writes a positive quote every morning, always focusing on teamwork and appreciation. A recent one, for example, was “first we make our habits; then our habits make us.”

Underneath she writes personal notes such as “I appreciate each one of you for what you do every day.” Or, when the biller did an outstanding job, she wrote a thank-you to her.

Underneath that, staff are free to add comments. Sometimes one person compliments another for being kind to a patient. Sometimes there’s a thank-you. But it’s always positive.

For the cork side, there’s a stack of note paper for staff to fill out and post. The notes have to be something to be thankful for, and staff can sign them or not. When a storm knocked out the power in a large part of the city, Cook noted that she was thankful the office had electricity that day.

Staff like the board. In the mornings, some stop to read it before they even go to their desks. And when Cork is out, someone invariably puts up a positive quote for the day.

Cork tells her staff, particularly anybody experiencing difficulties at home, that “this is the one place you are safe from your personal problems.” And the board emphasizes that, she says. When staff walk into the break room, “they see something positive,” and when someone is under stress, that ongoing positive effort is uplifting.

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