Twice this year, I have waited in the exam room for a doctor who did not come after an hour had passed.  No one else came either, to tell me that there was a delay or to say anything about the situation.  Why is this seen as acceptable in the medical community?

Both times I have left the doctor’s office instead of having an appointment.  When I told the nurse I was leaving, I heard an excuse that was intended to justify the delay.  It makes me think of a lesson I learned in a workshop on responsibility:

Not doing something plus a good reason does NOT equal doing something.

If you’re late because of traffic, you are still late.  If you bounce your check because your spouse didn’t write the last check in the register you are still overdrawn.  If you come to work tired because your child was sick last night you are still unproductive.  A good reason does not make things OK.

I totally understand one doctor’s delay because he spent a lot of time with a patient.  Today’s doctor had to tend to a situation that arose.  If I am in need of physical or mental attention, I hope my doctor is there to provide it, even past my normal appointment time.  But I do wish that the physicians would practice a bit of customer service with their medicine and tend to the other patients who are affected by their behaviors.  I don’t begrudge their time with needy patients; I resent their disrespect of me.

If someone is more than an hour behind, couldn’t they have told me this before I got there — or at least before I got undressed?  If they didn’t tell me of the delay ahead of time, could they respect my time enough to let me get my walk in or do something besides sit only covered with a sheet on a metal table?  Why not let me in the waiting room where there is a television, comfy chairs and heat?  Even the airlines — never known for stellar service — keep you updated on the delays and ETA; couldn’t someone have told me something?

Being a doctor plus a good reason does NOT equal acceptable behavior.  Is your organization operating like these doctors?  If so, I prescribe a dose of service to all the scheduled patients administered daily.

— beth triplett

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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