Jan 2003 Table of Contents

BALANCING ACT

Staying in the Loop at Work



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To improve your professional satisfaction, try investing in work relationships.

Fam Pract Manag. 2003 Jan;10(1):84.

Physicians who are unhappy with their jobs usually have one thing in common: They have decided that their work relationships are unimportant. Over the years, I have watched many of my colleagues rush to finish their work so they can leave and “have a life.” While having a life outside of work is important, it’s equally important to make your life inside of work enjoyable. Strong work relationships can help improve office efficiency and job satisfaction, and reduce feelings of isolation. Here are some quick strategies for making sure you stay connected at work:

Ask questions

Perhaps the easiest way to stay connected at work is to find out what people know and do by having active conversations with them. You might already be familiar with everyone’s job titles, but ask people about their work projects, goals, backgrounds and general interests. For example, during a conversation with one of our nurses, I discovered that he is Hmong and was born in Laos. Now, he’s an invaluable partner when I meet with my Laotian and Hmong patients.

Know the knowledgeable

Getting to know the most knowledgeable people around your workplace will also help you to stay in loop. Often, the most knowledgeable people are those who work on the front lines. For example, our internal medicine department had several faculty turnovers in the past year. To keep track of specialist availability during the transition, I made it a habit to chat with the department secretaries about who was new and who was going to be leaving. Somehow, they always had the latest information.

Participate in office functions

Although you can find out a great deal about someone during regular work hours, you may also need to invest some time in after-hours activities in order to get to know people outside the confines of their job descriptions. If you routinely avoid office functions because they are not family friendly or not your idea of fun, volunteer to help plan one that is.

If planning an event is too much of a time commitment, offer to help with setup or cleanup instead. Offering to do your part shows consideration and accessibility and may make it easier for your colleagues to chat with you about office matters later.

Read your mail

If you want to stay in the loop, read your mail at least twice a week. Having messages bounce out of your e-mail box because it is too full is a sure way to remain isolated. Also, use some old-fashioned politeness and reply to memos and e-mails in a timely manner. Doing so will show consideration to others and increase the likelihood that they seek your input before making big decisions.

Be someone you’d want to talk to

Another way to stay in touch with people at work is to make them want to come to you. If other physicians and staff enjoy talking to you and working with you, they are much more likely to let you know when something new happens. If you can, choose a workspace near office traffic and keep your door open when convenient. This will make you more accessible. Finally, if you really want to be one of the first people “in the loop,” make your office more people friendly by stocking it with snack foods. This alone will guarantee you visitors.

Understand your office culture

Your organization’s decision-making culture will influence how frequently you need to check in with colleagues in order to stay in the information loop. For example, if your medical director has a tendency to make big changes with little prior notification, you may need to check in frequently to be sure you know what’s going on in the practice. On the other hand, if your medical director shares information freely and gathers consensus before acting on major decisions, keeping up with memos and e-mails may be all you need.

Expand your loop

Who knows? After using these tips, you may like being in the loop so much that you begin getting involved in your local medical society or in community activities. Before you know it, you may become one of those people others seek out to stay connected.

Dr. Fang is an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Internal Medicine at the University of California San Francisco Residency Program at Fresno . The author would like to thank Davin Youngclarke, Susan Hughes and Donna McBrien for their assistance with the article.

Conflicts of interest: none reported.

Send comments to fpmedit@aafp.org.


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