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  • Jesse Arnoldson

Stop Asking This Question!


Each morning that I arrive at the clinic, I take about 20 minutes and I do some rounding. I stop in to speak to each group and employee; billing department, lab, nursing station and front office. Most of the time it is simply to say hi and see if anyone needs anything from me. It’s something that I actually really enjoy doing and it seems to do some good.

One thing that I’ve started to notice with this activity is that when I ask staff if there is anything they need from me or if there is something I can do to help them, 95% of the time they say no. There must be something I can help them with but they hardly ever ask. It makes me think that there’s got to be a better way to ask.

An article in a recent Farnham Street newsletter states that we have got to do better than simply asking, “Can I help you with anything?” Claire Lew, the article’s author, states that this question is vague, lazy and puts the onus on the employee to think up some way to make you be useful. She adds that there is a right way to ask this question, examples of which may look like:

  • Have I given you an unreasonable amount of work to get done?

  • Am I interrupting you too much throughout the day?

  • Could I do a better job outlining what our strategy is for this process?

  • Am I giving you enough information or the right tools to do your job?

It will require that we think beforehand about what question will truly elicit a helpful response. Take the time to do this for one or two employees at a time and watch to see if employees begin to be more open with you and your relationships improve.