It is clear that people are less likely to sue doctors whom they
believe are acting in the patient's interest and who communicate
clearly and kindly. Doctors discovered that good bedside manner is
This same principle holds true for business, good corporate bedside
manner translates into sound risk management.
A 2004 Chubb Group of Insurance Companies' survey of top executives
at 300 privately held companies found that an employee or former
employee had sued 26 percent of these companies. Twenty-two percent
reported that employees had filed discrimination or harassment
complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC) during the past few years.
Forty-four percent of the executives felt it was likely that an
employee or former employee will sue them this year. Fifty percent
of the respondents expect an employee to file an EEOC complaint.
While the respondents estimated that it would cost more than
$100,000 to settle an employee lawsuit, 10 percent of them
predicted that it would cost at least $1 million.
New leaders often are thrown into supervisory roles with little
training and no ongoing mentoring or support. This easily can lead
to errors in judgment, such as mishandling communications with
employees or asking an illegal question during an employment
interview. However, leaders can be taught skills that will make
them more effective.
Employees, like medical patients, rarely take legal action against
people with whom they have good relationships. When leaders show
respect by taking the time to talk and listen, employees are less
likely to file a lawsuit. By teaching and monitoring good corporate
bedside manner, risk is reduced and employee satisfaction enhanced.
Here are five tips that corporate America can learn from
Be empathetic and genuine. One of the worst
responses a leader can make in response to an employee's complaint
is to say "You are being too sensitive" or "Don't be silly." If an
employee voices a concern, give him or her your full attention. Ask
open-ended questions and get the facts. Find out what the employee
Be fair and consistent. Organizations need to
proactively develop, publicize, and follow company policies that
treat employees with respect and reflect legal standards. In turn,
leaders need training on EEOC laws, company policies, and company
Listen with an open mind. When an employee comes
to a leader with a complaint, it is the quality of the time the
leader gives that is important. Your tone is as important as your
words. If you can't do what the employee wants, calmly explain your
rationale and business reason. Ask the employee if he or she has
any questions and be prepared to answer them. If it makes good
business sense to change a policy, do so, and thank the employee
for bringing the suggestion to your attention.
Take action and follow up. Any time an employee
makes a complaint; take action within one or two days, to
investigate the complaint fully. Document everything that is done
with regard to the investigation. And, follow up with the employee
to assess his or her morale.
Create a sense of psychological safety. Employees
need to feel that it is safe for them to voice negative views.
Leaders can make this possible by seeking regular feedback through
anonymous surveys or other methods. Be sure that no one faces
retaliation for bringing a potential complaint to management.
Poor corporate bedside manner can lead to lowered morale, loss of
productivity, increased employee turnover, and lawsuits. Good
business dictates that corporations invest in coaching for managers
to maintain professional relationships and practice good corporate