I hope you had a very happy No Girls Day. It was this past Monday, as I'm sure you know. Maybe Hallmark will develop a “No Girls Day” greeting card to send to stubborn offenders. I received a very large response from readers to last week's tip calling for the term “girl” or “gal” to be abolished from eye care offices when referring to staff members. As promised, here are some of the comments I received.
As expected, nearly every response I received was in agreement that the use of the “girl” term should be dropped. Those who actually use the term were very quiet, I presume because there is really no way to defend it. And that is my goal; not to catch people doing something wrong but to alert you to a common figure of speech that many people find offensive. I'm glad the story caused you to analyze how you and your staff communicate with patients. Words make a big difference.
How about the ladies?
A few readers said they do not use the term “girl”, but they do use “lady” or “ladies”, and they wondered what I thought of that. Well, it is definitely more polite, but I still don't really like it.
It still does not recognize the staff member's skills.
It misses an opportunity to use a more professional term – like the actual job title or simply “staff member”. A good general job title is technician.
It misses the opportunity to use a more personal term, like the staff member's name.
It feels a little old-fashioned to me.
Many readers called it a pet peeve.
No Girls Day happened to fall on one doctor's birthday! Makes it easy to remember!
An optical manager wrote: “Often times, the staff already feels like a 'nobody', so recognizing our role would help office moral. It would make us feel a little more like the OD understands what we do, who we are, and how important we are to the effective running of a practice. We work hard every day and often feel that it goes unappreciated.”
An optometrist wrote: “I refer to the appropriate staff member by name or title and tell the patient that is the person who knows best. My job is in the exam room. Although it is a conscious effort on my part to empower my staff, it is based on truth; they do know more than I about the details and nitty-gritty of the office.”
“I would like to add something to the list of inappropriate designations: ‘You guys'. This term has become ubiquitous; it is used to refer to women, men or mixed groups, and I hate hearing it.”
“Once a workshop participant came up to me after a meeting and told me she doesn't want to be called staff member, because to her, ‘staff' is a bacterial infection!”
“I left my dispensing career to become a frame sales rep after being called ‘one of the girls' by an OD who was young enough to be one of my children. I may be ‘just a rep', but I am no longer ‘one of the girls'.”
“I cringe when colleagues use that term. I have a staff member who is male (and older than me) and I certainly wouldn't refer to him as my ‘boy'. I appreciate you making others aware of this issue.”
“Treat people the way you want to be treated, right?”
A manager for a dental marketing firm wrote: “What a great article! One of the best dental articles of the year.” I agree that dentistry and optometry have many similarities – we are both in the people business!
“Thanks for your insights and we have no girls in the office; they are in school where they belong! ;-) ”
“I will mention another issue I deal with in the office. My instruction to the techs when they leave a room after their part of the exam is completed is to say ‘the doctor' will be with you shortly – instead of ‘he' or ‘she' will be with you shortly.”
“I also don't allow my staff to call patients ‘honey', ‘hon', or any other slang term of endearment, no matter how well meaning. This is a professional office environment, not the local diner.”
Thanks for all the great comments!
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.