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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 3/2/23

March 2, 2023 Dr. Jayne 3 Comments

The hot topic around the virtual water cooler this week was the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision this week that employers can no longer use two specific strategies to silence laid-off employees. Employers are not permitted to include overly-broad confidentiality clauses as terms of a severance agreement. Additionally, they are not permitted to include broadly written non-disparagement clauses that prohibit discussion of previous employment with third parties.

The case involved hospital employees in Michigan who were furloughed when non-essential services were halted during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision applies to all US employers with the exception of railroads and airlines. There’s always the chance of an appeal, but for now, the decision is in force. It’s 23 pages of dense reading if you are looking for a sleep aid at the end of a long day.

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I’ve mentioned that I’m on the teaching staff for a leadership seminar for one of my volunteer organizations. The participants will be spending five days with us and we’ll be covering a variety of topics around project planning, team development, managing diverse people, and effective communication. I’ve been prepping for some of my sessions and have three presentations on communication, so I was excited to see the Grammarly State of Business Communication report hit my inbox. It was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Grammarly Business and surveyed 1,000 knowledge workers and 250 business leaders. The respondents were full-time workers at corporations with 150 employees or more and were across a mix of industries and job functions. Business leaders were at the director level or higher with decision-making authority over strategy, development, customer experience, budgeting, or hiring.

Findings that caught my attention:

  • The time spent on written communication is up 18% from 2022, but the quality of written communication is waning. This aggregate of 21.4 hours per worker includes writing and responding to written communications, creating materials to be shared, reviewing and editing the work of others, revising materials, and other writing tasks.
  • Effectiveness of written communication has declined 10% over the past year.
  • Miscommunication is frequent, with 100% of respondents reporting miscommunication at least once per week, 66% reporting it once per day, and 48% reporting multiple instances per day. Miscommunication costs US businesses $12,506 per employee per year and comes with decreased productivity and increased worker-reported stress.
  • One in five business leaders feel that inadequate communication has eroded brand reputation, with 19% reporting lost deals due to poor communication. Conversely, one in three leaders feel that effective communication has helped them gain new business.
  • Confident writers are more likely feel confident in their work and engaged in their roles than non-confident writers. They also report higher mental well-being at work.
  • Increases in asynchronous work creates greater urgency for projects aimed at improving the quality of written communication.
  • More than one in five workers report that they have considered finding a new job due to poor communication.

There’s such a great push for many industries to bring workers back to the office that I think people sometimes lose sight of the benefits of asynchronous work. The majority of respondents felt asynchronous communication made their jobs more flexible. Additionally, a good percentage of workers in key demographics felt asynchronous work made them feel more included: 40% each for millennial and Latinx workers, and 39% for neurodivergent workers.

I was particularly interested in learning the details of people’s specific struggles with written communication. The majority of respondents (71%) struggle to choose words that don’t offend others and with finding the balance between formal and casual written speech. Additionally, 63% say they spend too much time trying to convey their message in the right way. There are additional challenges for workers with English as their second or less familiar language, who report higher levels of uncertainty than their primarily English-using colleagues on things like tone, word selection, communication length, jargon, and idioms.

The long and short of it is that communication is key, and I’m looking forward to being part of a leadership development experience that puts some useful skills and well-accepted methodologies in front of people who might not otherwise receive formal communication training. As a side bonus, this is an outdoor leadership program so I get to do all of my teaching in front of a picnic table rather than in front of a Zoom screen. There will also be some sleeping in a tent, which is fine by me, although I’m crossing my fingers for beautiful spring weather rather than the rain and hail I’ve had teaching previous outdoor leadership courses.

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From Bianca Biller: “Re: March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Look what greeted me on a practice visit. Hopefully the patients will identify with it and get their tests scheduled. The practice had a whole ‘Patient Communication’ wall with at least 10 signs taped to it.” Bianca included a picture of that wall that I can’t run due to the practice letterhead being all over the documents. Some of them are laminated, and based on the photo, they range from knee height (diabetes) to about seven feet from the ground (Affordable Care Act and preventive visits). The fonts were pretty small and I can’t imagine anyone being able to actually read it all. Hopefully they are using other methods to communicate with patients such as their website, patient portal, email outreach, and chatbot campaigns.

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The practice also uses a super fancy inventory management system for the exam rooms, placing the burden of managing inventory on the people who are in direct contact with patients and using the supplies in the rooms. I guess the days of having the staff clean and restock rooms at the end of each day have passed. I understand the “just in time” approach here, but I guess the idea of working at the top of your license might not be top of mind in this practice. Compared to regular checks by support staff, this also increases the risk that you could run out of something if you inadvertently let supplies get lower than the time it takes for someone to notice that the magnets have moved and to find the time to get an item and restock it.

At my last clinical location, there was a designated support staff member that started going through the office with a supply cart in the final hour before closing. Despite seeing up to 20 patients in each exam room each day, we never ran out of anything, we always had what we needed for patient care, and delays were nonexistent. It’s a brave new world, I guess.

As I get ready to head to the American Telemedicine Association’s 2023 Annual Conference & Expo in San Antonio for the first time, I have to reflect on the fact that it is the spammiest conference I’ve ever attended. There are only 220 exhibitors on the list and it feels like I’m getting emails from all of them. Some have a tone of increasing urgency, asking if I missed their previous email and pushing for a response. I understand the sales strategy here, but it’s annoying and actually makes me less likely to consider you as a vendor when you do this. I also loathe emails that address me as “Hey Jayne.” An email isn’t a formal letter and personally I don’t think it needs a salutation. I’d rather receive one with no salutation than one with the “Hey” at the top.

What’s your greatest pet peeve when it comes to email? Leave a comment or email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.



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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Looking forward to your report from the Telemedicine conference! Please let us know if it could have been held virtually 🙂

  2. Biggest pet peeve with e-mail is when people use the e-mail “status” of “High Priority.” If it is “high priority,” pick up the phone and call me! Most of the time it isn’t important at all, just someone being passive aggressive in the workplace.

    • Sometimes people need responses in writing and/or are building a paper trail, or there is more than one person who needs to act on the email, or its off-hours, or you’re on a call already, or…

      Just answer the email.

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