Optometric Management Tip # 195   -   Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Staff Issues: Personal Conversations in the Office

Personal conversations around the water cooler are a pleasant part of the workday for most people, even if the office doesnít actually have a water cooler. Coworkers enjoy getting to know each other on a personal level, and caring about one another as friends can make the workplace pleasant and build morale. But when does a little idle chit-chat become excessive? How do owners and managers know when enough is enough? With some thoughtful policies, day-to-day observation and good judgment, a happy medium can be found.

All work and no play

In my opinion, a certain amount of personal conversation and friendship among staff members is a good thing. A successful practice depends on employees with friendly, happy attitudes. A pleasant and supportive office environment breeds those attitudes. Itís understandable for bosses who sign the paychecks to feel they are being taken advantage of when employees gather during work hours to talk about their weekend plans, but smart bosses see the big picture.

The big picture is made up of all the factors that cause people to like their jobs; also called job satisfaction. High levels of job satisfaction among employees produce good morale, friendly attitudes, high productivity, good punctuality, consistent attendance, and low turnover rates. Wages and benefits are an obvious factor in creating job satisfaction, but studies how that itís not the most important factor. There are many intangible things that make people happy when they go to work.

Too much of anything

Even though we want to foster a happy and caring workplace, employees need training on when to put a lid on the camaraderie and focus on work and professionalism. Managers must see a balance in this area and continually monitor and train staff about it. Here are a few special considerations:
Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management