Do you know why patients sue their doctors? Poor bedside manner. The manner in which doctors behave alongside their patients is the biggest predictor of future malpractice lawsuits. A physician who treats a patient with respect and courtesy, along with open two-way communication, is unlikely to be sued, even if the doctor makes a mistake in a diagnosis or surgery. A doctor with a toxic bedside manner who makes a similar mistake, however, should call his attorney and begin working on his defense.
In an effort to find quick, proven ways to predict the probability of malpractice lawsuits, an insurance company discovered a proven method in managing risk; quickly observe how doctors treat their patients. “Patients file lawsuits because they’ve been harmed by shoddy medical care and something else happens to them,” points out Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Blink,” a book on how we make instantaneous decisions without thinking. These quick and perceptive judgments are quite accurate according Gladwell. The concept, called thin-slicing, is the ability of the unconscious mind to make precise judgments based upon thin slices of experience.
“What comes up again and again in malpractice cases is that patients say they were rushed or ignored or treated poorly,” says Gladwell. “People just don’t sue doctors they like,” states Alice Burkin, a leading medical malpractice lawyer.
This same concept is likely true for employers. Companies who treat their employees with respect, dignity and fairness, earn the trust of their employees. Employees typically will not file a lawsuit against an employer who has treated them well. A company whose leaders have a poor cubicle-side manner, on the other hand, should make sure their liability insurance premium is paid and that they have a good labor attorney.
Toxic work environments create an atmosphere of fear, hatred, mistrust, contempt and brutal office politics. It is only a matter of time when these toxic company cultures begin springing up a crop of wrongful termination claims, sexual harassment charges, constructive discharge lawsuits, race discrimination allegations, unethical executive conduct investigations, insider trading reports by the press, and much, much more.
Pay attention to the signals, good and bad, displayed by your employer’s leadership. Their cubicle-side manner could be foretelling the future.