Have you ever received horrible service that was based on a policy that made absolutely no sense in your situation? Was the policy in your case so far removed from common sense that it simply left you shaking your head in disbelief? Worse yet, was the offending party so entrenched in the policy that no one could see how illogical the policy was to your situation—but you? Well, you’re not alone.
Real World Story: It’s 9:00 pm on Saturday night. My mom is fast asleep in her “home” in the assisted-living community where she lives. A caretaker enters my mom’s room to check on her, but instead finds a doctor’ note on the dresser, reads it, and takes it to a supervisor. The supervisor immediately calls an EMT and orders an ambulance to take my mom to the emergency room. Distraught—not understanding what’s going on—my mom phones me in the middle of all the raucousness. My mom is then taken out of bed, not allowed to get dressed, get her purse, or get anything. She is transported to the nearest hospital, where the EMT, ER nurse, and ER doctor are all confused as to why my mom is there.
Apparently, the doctor’s note mentioned that my mother had tested positive for MRSA two days prior, so the doctor had put her on antibiotics to treat it. MRSA is an infection-causing bacterium that can be contagious when left untreated. However, the assisted-living facility has a firm policy: anyone with MRSA MUST be taken to a skilled nursing facility to avoid infecting other residents. Period.
The medical staff in the ER said that MRSA is extremely common and that since my mother was on antibiotics, she could not infect others. The ER staff considered my mom’s trip to the emergency room a complete waste of time—not to mention the stress it put on her: to be taken from her bed and home, brought to the ER, tested, only to be sent back to the assisted-living facility FOUR hours later.
This begs the question: When should common sense bypass “the policy”? It appears that we are training employees to be robots, to simply follow the rules without exception, and not to think logically through individual cases. These situations are unacceptable, and they probably happen way too often. Can’t we ask for better from our employees through better training?
Strategies that Turn it Around:
- Policies are in place for the majority of cases. Follow them within reason and remain flexible.
- When a situation appears to violate a policy, look at all the facts surrounding the situation before blatantly rejecting viable options. Your situation may be unique, so it will require a unique solution not covered in a policy.
- If you absolutely MUST abide by a policy, take the time necessary to explain nicely and compassionately with whoever is being affected what is happening and why are doing what you have to do. Do NOT make them feel like they are Patient Zero. Geez!
Remember: Policies are in place for definite reasons; therefore, they are meant to be followed—especially in medical situations. However, there are exceptions to every rule, and common sense and great communication skills go a long way in healing a wounded spirit.
Have you ever experienced someone enforcing a policy that seemed ridiculous? Please share in the comments section below.