Vanderbilt got it from me

I started this practice in the 80s.  I'd take a staff member to a nearby McDonalds for coffee to discipline them or otherwise give them bad news.  Pretty soon, the thought of coffee with me sent shivvers down the backs of everyone who worked for me.  Now, if I want to meet off-campus about something, I have to explain that it's not about something bad.  Except when it is. From Jonathan Zimmerman writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

A Little Shame Goes a Long Way
Suppose that every college and university reviewed syllabi and student evaluations to identify professors who scored consistently low on two measures: the amount of work assigned and the amount of time spent with students. Then a peer—ideally, a colleague in the same department or division—would take each of those professors out for coffee, inform them about the below-average scores, and offer to help.

Before you start scoffing, you should know that the "cup-of-coffee method" has already been tried with physicians, and it works.

Since the late 1990s, doctors at Vanderbilt University have held these casual chats with more than 1,600 doctors who have elicited complaints from patients or staff regarding their rude or unprofessional behavior. About 60 percent of them generate fewer complaints after, yes, a single cup of coffee.

The meetings are informal, Gerald Hickson, who directs the Vanderbilt Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy, told an interviewer in 2009, but their message is unmistakable. "Bob, for whatever reason, you seem to be associated with more complaints than the vast majority of your colleagues," said Hickson, describing the typical encounter with a "disruptive" doctor. "I'm not here to ascertain why. My goal is not to tell you what to do, but to suggest that you review the material I am sharing with you and reflect on what families are saying about your practice."

And for more than half of the doctors, that simple line does the trick. Many are unaware of how they're being perceived; others know but have never been told about it by a peer. And they change.


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