Episode 601 : Help PREVENT Burnout – Multitasking Has a New Best Friend

Are you always looking for excellent multitaskers when you’re hiring? Well, we’ve got some news for you. Everyone these days is an excellent multitasker, it’s almost impossible not to be with how much the world throws at us. What should you be looking for instead? Someone who’s a great sequencer! We know, you must be wondering what the heck that even means. Well, let’s just say it may be one of the main ways to prevent burnout in the workplace – seriously! Join Paul Edwards, CeCe Wilson, and Amanda Rishor as they discuss the difference between sequencing and multitasking, along with giving guidance on how to find someone who knows how to sequence their tasks (and finding someone who doesn’t!)


Voice Over: You’re about to listen to an episode of What the Hell Just Happened?! Join Paul Edwards and his guests as they discuss interesting HR topics and solve some of our listeners’ submitted questions. 


Paul: And occasionally I’ll go off HR topic and talk about whatever I want to talk about. Think barbecue. Space exploration. Technology. Money. Managing. Business. Things that interest all of us.


Voice Over: We get a lot of emails with questions. Stay tuned for details on how you can submit yours to the show. And now let’s get started. 


Paul: In today’s podcast, we’re going to talk about an article that we’re currently writing for a publication – It’s a national publication called Dentaltown – Where we’re going to discuss multitasking versus sequencing. I was doing another podcast and I had CeCe in the podcast with me and we were talking about hiring and maybe some questions to ask, and I brought up looking for multitaskers and CeCe just had this epiphenal statement. She said, “No, no. We’re not looking for multitaskers. We’re looking for sequencers. We’re looking for people who could do the work, put it in order.” And you know, that really stuck with me. So when it came time to write an article, I was thinking about it and thinking about it as I do. I really started to kind of burrow down into this subject, which I really like, and look at the differences between the two. So in today’s podcast, we’re going to talk about those differences and some of the questions that you might be able to ask to help you find people who are good sequencers as opposed to just great multitaskers. So I hope you enjoy today’s What the Hell Just Happened in HR?! At the end, we’re also going to answer a listener’s question because they’re starting to come in, y’all, and I hope you keep sending them in. You know, I kind of…Guys, I just want to kind of…We’re going to reveal a little bit of the sausage making here.


Amanda: Okay. 




Amanda: We’re making sausages here at CEDR now?


Paul: We do!


Amanda: That’s so exciting! Just in time for the holidays!




Paul: That’s my Southern thing coming up. Y’all don’t want to see the sausage being made, but you sure do love it. So anyway, my barbecue self tells you that that’s not true. It’s actually awesome to watch the sausage being made. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: Anyway, we’re going to talk a little bit about the HR sausage that goes on around here, and that seems totally inappropriate.


CeCe: [laughing]


Amanda: I need that on a shirt. 




Paul: Yeah. Yeah. So anyway, for everybody who’s listening, we get asked often by national organizations to write some kind of articles for them. We have to pick and choose because if we responded to everyone that we were asked for, that’s all we would be doing is working for other publications. But in this case, we have a publication we’ve worked with for a long time. If you’re a listener and you’re in dentistry, you’ve probably heard of this organization called Dentaltown. It’s this huge community. Over 100,000 members worldwide, like 70 or 80,000 dentists have joined it here in the United States. If you’re not a dentist, don’t worry about it. This is still quite applicable to you.  We’re going to kind of focus when we talk today about medical and dental and managers. That’s who we’re thinking about, is the managers and the leaders and the people that are doing the work in these small businesses, these small and medium businesses. I believe this applies no matter who’s listening. 


Amanda: Oh, absolutely.


Paul: I don’t care if you’re a real estate company or whatever you’re doing. I do want to say part of the premise of this article and we’ve again, the sausage making…I hate the title. I’m just going to go ahead and say it. We have to redo the title. 


Amanda: Okay. 




Paul: But I think I wrote the title. I’m pretty sure I did. 


Amanda: You did. [laughing]


Paul: Yeah. So the title is, “The Symphony of Focus: Why Sequencing Must Exist Alongside Multitasking in the Modern Workplace.” Now, if I can’t even say that and read it correctly?


Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. 


Paul: Seems like a bit much.


Amanda: It’s a mouthful. 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul:  Why sequencing must exist alongside multitasking in the modern workplace. I think everybody here is tired of me telling the story about the Scrum Principle and the book and all that stuff. I’m just going to put this out here right in front as we’re talking, everyone. There’s a lot of science that proves, and I think if you look at yourself as a leader or manager or even as an employee, this is going to ring true with you. There is a lot of research out there that supports the idea that when we multitask and we’re constantly switching task and jumping from one thing to the next, that the more disparate those things are, meaning the less like one another that they are towards a common goal, the longer it takes to execute each of those tasks. To juxtaposition that, it takes longer than if you could sit there in a vacuum and not have the fire hose of working in a modern business today fired at you. If you could just set yourself aside and order things and put all the things that are somewhat alike together and get them done all in order, then you would be able to complete those tasks in a much quicker fashion.


CeCe: Yeah. 


Paul: So the studies are 4 to 5 times. I think I’ve seen some that say even it takes ten times longer. So I want to, before we get into this, because, you know, I’m sitting here with CeCe and I’m sitting here with Amanda, and CeCe is the one that really hit me with this. As I said in the introduction, we were talking about multitasking and what people expect and hiring and all sorts of stuff, and all of a sudden CeCe says this thing about sequencing. So I just want to set the stage for you. You’re in a practice. You have 15 employees. You have an office manager, she or he, most likely she, is kind of a jack of all trades. She can do every single job in the practice, and because we’re a small business, sometimes we don’t even have more than one or no backup for a position. So we may not be able to afford an extra position, may not need an extra position. So this office manager by example, but really anybody in your office can find themselves diverted towards having to do something, lots of what I call disparate things. I’m not speaking to that condition right now in this article that we’re writing or in this podcast, I need to recognize this. The receptionist, the person who answers the phone, the front desk sergeant, whatever we want to call her. You know what I mean? I don’t want to denigrate anything. The receptionist is the most important job in the dental practice or in any medical practice. Doctors in the medical practice out there: I know not a ton of you listen to this, but a couple hundred of you are. If you don’t do something about your front desk people and pay them more and train them better, you’re going to continue to struggle. Okay. I’m going to get off that…




Paul: On a side note! The difference is, I digress, with dental offices, they really have to be somewhat of an entrepreneur mindset because as soon as a dentist walks out his or her front door, all I have to do is look a block down the street for the next dental practice. So people who go to dentists are accustomed to being treated well. The teams are much more trained. I mean, there are always exceptions and some people have bad days every year. 


CeCe: Well it’s true. I think because people are so…That can be a real fear for people. So you really have to have that presence in the office that’s calming and welcoming.


Paul: It’s that front stage, backstage sort of thing. You have to have everything running in the backstage. The problem we have with medical is we don’t have enough doctors and therefore people will put up…People, me, customers, patients will put up with a lot of shit, that’s the right word, in a medical practice in order to be able to get in to see our doctor. So we’ll just suffer through. The thing with dentistry is, is if you’re suffering and I don’t mean because the tooth hurts or you need some kind of treatment from this. If you’re suffering through the team, you’ll just move. You’ll just go, “I’m just going to go someplace where people are nice and professional and can handle things.” Okay. Now back to the subject. I want to recognize that on this day in this office that I’m talking about, the receptionist had to call out and there is no one else to take her place. Meanwhile, there are three hygiene chairs in this practice and two doctors, the main doctor and the associate doctor. Not uncommon. Patients have called in and canceled, several of them, three or four of them. It’s kind of weird, a little too much. It’s not normal, but several have called in and canceled their hygiene appointments. So we need to try to fill those hygiene slots, even if it’s to fill them with employees who are waiting to get into hygiene. We’re going to trigger the process. Okay. Also, by the way, it’s 8:15. The practice is open and the first patient has walked in the door, expected to be seen at 8:30. Normally that front desk person does a few things, enters a few things, opens up some software and lets the back know that that person’s in. The back then needs to open some more records and get ready for that patient. They’re back there wondering, did the first patient show up? I did mention, right, that the phone’s ringing?


CeCe: Right.


Amanda: And payroll’s due. 




Paul: Oh, yeah. Let’s throw that in there. And payroll is due tomorrow, and not only is payroll due tomorrow, but about eight of your well, all of your people are supposed to be clocking with the exception of the associate. All your people are supposed to be clocking and eight of your 14 people to this day continue to be unable to punch a time card. 


Amanda: Yeah. Of course.


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: And put the time in and so CeCe, you need to reach out to them and tell them without saying, “You idiots! Would you please put your time card in!” And by the way, the person who is sick is the leading person. You know that she has a wrong punch that she said she was there this morning and she never showed up and you also know that you got to put in some time for her sick leave.


Amanda: I’m like getting a headache just hearing all these things.


Paul: I know. And by the way, I can’t believe it, but the fax machine is running.




Amanda: Oh my god. Yet another!


Paul: Right? Because we’re in medical. So the fax machine is running. For some reason, the network is down this morning and it’s coming in and it’s going out, but the office manager, she knows she knows the trick. She’s put a call in to the network people. They’ll get back to them on Friday. Today’s Tuesday, you know, so she’s got to get this fixed because her computer’s working fine, but she’s heard from hygiene, “We can’t bring up our software.” We just discovered it’s not the network, it’s the software. So we need to get in touch with Dentrix or whoever is running the software, we need to get in touch with them, and, jeez, is that the fire marshal? 




Amanda: What else can we pull out of the bag? 


Paul: Okay, but this is normal, right?


Amanda: Yeah. It’s crazy but yeah.


Paul: This is normal. I also want to add that the air conditioning guys called and they’re not coming today. We’ve been waiting for them for three days and the air conditioner in the very back is not running. That’s the fire hose that is coming.Then I want to recognize that there’s no sequencing. There’s just, you know, Jagermeister.




CeCe: Like do I pull my hair out first or do I – 


Amanda: Do I take a shot first? 


CeCe: Which one? [laughing]


Paul: Should I take a shot right now? Managers, the answer is no. You have to wait till after work to get to wear this off. This is what red wine was made for. So I want to recognize that you can’t sequence that. That firehose just comes at you, but it is normal, right? Now, I just want to take that craziness that we just talked about and I want to back it back up a notch and I want to say that everything’s kind of going right on my next example. But the fact is, is that you will look up sometimes and realize that you have people working for you and they are working on many different things all at once. That’s the main reason for coming to this. Where this principle comes from, the Scrum Principle, is software. I’m not going to go too deep into it, but if you can find the Scrum Principle, Google it and kind of read into it, what they basically did was take things in developing software and start looking at the big picture and they went for small sequences of like-things that needed to be done. So instead of working on the six different, the same team, same team, this is important, working on six different things. So one of them is we’re working on the code, we’re working on the functionality of the code. In other words, we’re still talking to our client about how they want this to work, or manager, how they want this to work, working on the look of it at the website, working on the security of it at the databases…You see where I’m going with this? Again, I’m creating a firehose of disparate things. They said all we’re going to work on for the next week is all six people on this team are going to work on design and nothing else. You won’t be switching from design into code, you won’t be switching into security, you won’t be doing anything, and by the way, you also won’t be going into any meetings and you won’t be reporting anything to anybody personally. You’re going to keep all of your reporting in something like Asana, which is tracking, and your manager can look in there and help you.


Amanda: Yeah. 


Paul: What this led to was that teams of three, two, three, four, five, six people can actually look at everything that needed to be done and just knock it out on their own. Then, this was the best part, they start helping one another. “I finished my parts. What do you need help with?” It’s kind of neat and this is where these studies came from, right? They took multitasking and they sequenced it. They started lumping things together. 


CeCe: Well, I was going to say I have a better example that might help people envision what this might look like in an office. So we just had Thanksgiving. If you think about planning, maybe you do this. I don’t know. You probably have better insight than I do, but the way that I figure out – 


Paul: Are we talking Thanksgiving?


Amanda: [laughing]


CeCe: How I’m going to cook Thanksgiving dinner, I look at what time we’re supposed to sit down and eat. 


Paul: Did you listen to my podcast? I think we talked about reverse engineering.


CeCe: Did you?


Amanda: We talked about reverse engineering, yes, but not in the way of blatantly saying ‘sequencing and multitasking.’ He was just like, “You need to remember this.”


CeCe: I don’t remember this part.


Amanda: We didn’t go that deep. 


CeCe: And so I look at, I take each dish that I’m going to make and I look at how long does it take to cook? So that means that I need to have it ready to go in the oven at this time. How long does it take me to do all the things that I need to do to get it ready to go in the oven? So I need to start the turkey at this time. Now I’m going to do that with the potatoes. Now I’m going to do that with the other thing and I fit in a timeline of the day of when I need to start each thing and when I need to put each thing in the oven.


Paul: And your other half and your kid have no idea how lucky they are. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: That’s all I’m saying. That was just some, that’s my love language right there. I write it with a sharpie on the tinfoil on top. 


CeCe: I make a note in my phone.


Paul: Temperature and time. Yep. 


CeCe: 1 p.m. And then if you think about that on a bigger scale, like a professional kitchen, where now there’s multiple people and so the sous chef needs to start chopping the onions at this time because I’m going to need them at this time and then they’re going to go in this dish – that is pretty akin to what it should look like in an office, right? You’re looking at all the things that have to get done, what’s each person’s part and who needs to do which thing so that the next person can do their part.


Paul: And look, in the old days, I’m going to say prior to about, I’m going to say about 2020, but maybe it started around 2015, 2016 when it changed, “it” being how we view the manpower that we need in order to get something done. So what we used to do is in order to keep kind of people siloed and doing the thing is we hired specialists. When I say specialists, I mean we would hire someone whose job it was to do these focused things and they didn’t do much else. Now that can be kind of boring, right, for that person, that can be kind of brutal because, you know, you’re reading or in data, you just do this and what we would do is we would just add more people to the team in order to keep those silos kind of functioning. The thinking was, “Well, if they do this, then they can’t do that or that’s not the place for them.” I don’t know why we siloed people so much, but that was one of the approaches. But what changed that was software and the need to do more with less and to remain competitive. This goes all the way into dental practices, not medical practices because they don’t care, but dental practices and every other business out there and every other small and medium business out there has to care about…They have to compete. They have to do more with less. So now, instead of adding more people, we add another piece of software. Right?


CeCe: Yep. 


Paul: So we add billing. Okay, so the front desk person is answering phones, and that used to be mostly what they did. They would let the office know what’s going on. They may do some scheduling, but now they may find themselves in billing and bill collecting and filling hygiene appointments that are no longer full. I can just go on and on and on and on because we added all this software capability where one person could actually sit down at a screen and open up six different things. The things, the software that were open were providing quite a bit of the expertise for them, like supportive expertise. Am I making sense here?


CeCe: Yes. 


Paul: So now what we have is we flash forward 20 years and multitasking is just natural. I mean, we wrote this article for Dentaltown that we’re kind of talking about right now. 


Amanda: Comes out in February.


Paul: Yeah, it comes out in February of 2024. The big point that we want to make here is that, you know, you’re not looking for a multitasker because you can’t find anyone who’s not a multitasker. 


CeCe: Right.


Amanda: That’s true. It’s just so natural for us these days. There’s so many things grabbing our attention, everywhere.


Paul: Have you driven lately? I mean, everybody’s multitasking. 


CeCe: Yeah, it’s just a part of life.


Amanda: Yeah, I didn’t really understand that at first when we started diving into the subject. I thought we were saying sequencing is better than or should only exist, and then you’re like, “No, no, no. Sequencing and multitasking work together.” You know what I mean? 


Paul: To the best of your ability. 


Amanda: Yeah. You can’t just sequence your day because then when random stuff comes up, you’re going to like, freak out and not know what to do. You’re going to like, “Wait, no, it’s not in my schedule. It’s not in my sequence.”


Paul: Yeah, we can’t…I just want to recognize that it can’t be that way. 


Amanda: Yeah, that just doesn’t exist.


CeCe: Right? I think the bigger point is, like, what Paul’s just saying. You know, putting in your job description that someone needs to be able to multitask is like saying that they need to be breathing.




Paul: Right. So you’re like, “I’m going to check my Reddit, my email, I’m going to talk to my mom, I’ll be texting with my husband. I’ll stop at some of these stoplights and turn signals. I’ll be doing that as well.” I mean, they’re going to multitask. 


Amanda: So dare we say, is this one of the biggest solutions to burnout in the workplace?


Paul: Well, I think yeah. I think that if you think about your…Look, unfortunately now, your best day could be your worst day and your best day is I multitasked my ass off today and I got so much done today and I just feel like I got a lot of things accomplished. But that feeling, I believe, is fleeting.


Amanda: Kind of exhausting. 


Paul: I think it’s exhausting and it’s just like training too hard in a gym. You may actually be getting bigger or you may be, you know, training and doing it, coming to the gym every day, but you’re not making any progress. Eventually what you’re doing is setting yourself up to burn out, to not be able to lift as much, you know, if we’re going to go for the metaphor there. 


Amanda: Yeah. So it seems like it’s really important for managers to have a really good idea of how to sequence so that they can better sequence their teams and help decrease burnout in their practice or business. 


CeCe: Well, I think the other thing is what happens when you’re multitasking and you’re just focused on the day to day and you don’t have a sequencing mindset is you end up getting to deadlines or, you know, there’s all these things that you can’t get done because they do need some focused attention – 


Paul: Because they’re taking ten times longer to do because everything’s taking – 


Amanda: Because of the Scrum Principle! 


CeCe: And then you end up rushing, you know, the pressure of, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t get this done. I didn’t think about checking time cards this morning so that I could give people enough time to go fix them and now I have to submit payroll and now there’s all this pressure to get it done right now and I didn’t think that, you know, Jane left early today and her time card needs attention.” So, you end up with this build up of things that are all of this additional unnecessary pressure and that leads to additional burnout, too. 


Amanda: And I really like how you said you’re focused kind of only on the day to day. I think, you know, a lot of what we talk about here is business growth and you have to have that growth mindset of your core values, your mission, purpose, vision. If you’re just focused on the day to day, I don’t think you’re probably paying much attention to your vision and making sure that you’re trying to get where you want to go. 


Paul: Well, this goes back to making time. 


Amanda: Yeah.


Paul: Making space for time, making space for thinking, making space for having a larger conversation with yourself. So, it’s easy from, you know, just speaking to what you just said, the kind of the strategic HR Business planning thing that you guys know I love to talk about, and I’m always like, look, I need you. You know, I’m telling everybody, everybody who listens, everybody who I lecture to or write articles, you need to do this sooner rather than later. You think you don’t. You don’t need to do it until you get bigger, but you should start delving into it. The number one question is how am I going to find time for this? And what I’m telling you is, is the place for the time is in the sequencing and the multitasking. It’s possibly there. You’re just doing a lot. You’re just doing a lot. Speaking back to that epiphany, the question is, is how do we find a sequencer? So I don’t want anybody get off this podcast without having the advantage of having HR, who is CeCe, and who’s responsible for adjusting the questions. By the way, everyone, this principle of when you need to fill a position, whether it’s to replace or create a new one, but let’s use the context of replacing. You need to create a position. One of the best things –  I’m sorry –  to fill a position, one of the best things you can do is is to look back at what was working for the last person. Also look at some of the things that they weren’t capable of doing and see how you might ask better questions during the interview to fill that. So you don’t want to lose the good things. You try to re-fulfill the good things. You try to fill the gaps and then there’s always a set of questions that you just didn’t even ask. That’s this process that we’re talking about right here, which is, okay, let’s just say our typical owner of a practice needed a manager. He picked the person who showed up on time every day and seemed to be, you know, most engaged with this practice and gave them the job, and they didn’t work out. So let’s work from that place and let’s work from that place that the reason why they didn’t work out in the end is, is that they were pretty good at multitasking, but they had no sequencing conversation at all. They would just say yes to everything. They would work their ass off and they kept the wheels on by sheer force. 


Amanda: I think that’s interesting: “Kept the wheels on by sheer force.” 


Paul: Yeah, they forced themselves to keep the practice looking good and the team looking good by always filling in. So we lost her. You know what happened? 


Amanda: Burned out. 


CeCe: Got burned out.


Paul: Yeah, she burned out and she got a job and she was talking to someone and she was like, “I need to look around because I can’t take this anymore.” And she went and talked to someone and they said, “No, you won’t be doing all those things. This is all you have to do here.”What she didn’t know she heard was, “Hey, we’re going to sequence you. We have good leadership here and we can’t have you in all these disparate things. There’ll still be tons of multitasking. You’ll be exhausted at the end of the day, but it won’t be because you’re responsible for ten different disparate things every single day.” Okay, So how do we find this person? 


Amanda: What would you ask? 


Paul: What do you ask? 


CeCe: So typically you want to do some sort of skills test, but this sort of skill is not something you can easily test for because you’re looking at a longer period of time, right? It’s not just looking at like, can you put a tray together? Can you complete this Excel spreadsheet? But you can build this into your set of questions. So it’s in place of a skills test or in conjunction with an actual skills test. The questions are your skills test. So some of the questions that we might ask are what information would you need to be able to plan your approach to completing these three tasks and give them something that’s relevant to your business that they should know relatively how to complete, right? If you’re applying to be a hygienist at a dentist’s office, you should have the basics of the job and understand some of the terminology. So something that’s relevant to what their workday is going to look like and look at what their approach to answering that is. What are they asking for? Are they asking things like, “Well, what are your busiest or slowest days?”


Amanda: That makes sense. I was going to say, if I answer that saying, “Okay, so there are three tasks that need to be done today. I want to know, like again, what is the busiest time of the day? What are the busiest times of the week? Which one is the most important? Which ones are the least important? Are there other people waiting on it?” Questions like that sound like they would be a good approach. The sequencing approach. 


CeCe: Yeah. Or similarly, you can say you have three times they all have the same deadline. Which one are you going to do first or how are you going to decide what order to complete them in? And so some of the things that you just said are exactly what you want to listen for. Are they thinking about the “in order tos”? The things that they have to have in place or do ahead of the next one. 


Paul: I’m going to deal with the patient standing in front of me first, because that was the first thing. So I’m going to deal with that. I’m going to either get on the phone with the people and try to fill the hygiene slots, or I’m going to get somebody in from hygiene who’s sitting back there to help me with it because I can’t get to it, and the last thing on your list, which is the billing question that’s coming from the insurance company, I’m going to save that for later. That’s not, there’s nobody standing in front of me and I’m trying to fill chairs. That’s the sequencer. 


Amanda: So we can gave them a good answer. What would a bad answer be that tells you that they don’t know how to sequence?


CeCe: A bad answer would be something along the lines of, “Well, I’m going to do this thing first because I like it better. I’m going to save this for last because I don’t like it.” And there is no thought process linked to the bigger picture. They’re not reflecting on how much time something actually takes. They’re just disconnected and it’s more about the thing I want to avoid versus the thing that I’m willing to approach.


Paul: Interesting.


Amanda: Could it also be like they’re maybe not a self-starter, like they say, “I don’t know. Which one would you want me to get done first?”


Paul: Oh!


CeCe: Oh! That’s a good…Yeah.


Amanda: “I would ask my manager which one they want done first.” You know what I mean? That means they’re not the self-starter that can sequence in their own head. 


CeCe: They’re not thinking critically. They want to be fed the tasks. 


Paul: Okay, so I want to change something for the listeners out there. In the context of listening to what we just said and where we’re going. I want you to take out the thing I said that we’re looking to maybe hire a manager, okay, so this is good for no matter who we’re talking to, because if someone says that to you and you like them a lot and they say those words, “Well, I’d ask my manager”, that might actually be a positive. I’m serious. Now you know it. This person needs managing. That’s where they are. 


CeCe: Yeah. There’s definitely a role where that is going to be an advantage, but in terms of the sequencing conversation – 


Paul: That’s not your favorite answer. 


CeCe: Yeah, that’s not indicating that they’re going to think critically about it, but there certainly is a time and place for that. 


Paul: I think if I was hiring a manager that I would, you know, note to self. I think I might put together the hell morning that I just put together and give them the first three and then say, “Now the next two things happen. What are you going to do?” And then add the next two and say, “Now that’s happening.” Now I’m sitting here looking at a person in front of me who’s interviewing, and I’m beginning to see how they’re going to react to this kind of pressure that I’m going to put on them at this point. It’s a little bit of a hot seat as you start to add it in. 


Amanda: Throwing some fire at them.


Paul: Now what are you gonna do? And then I might even try to give them something that’s presumably unsolvable. 


Amanda: Oh! And see if they’re just saying, “That’s unsolvable.”


Paul: Yeah, well, actually, I think that’s actually a very good –


Amanda: Exactly. 


Paul: Attribution to sequencing. Best case, maturity of a manager or somebody who’s working towards being a leader is, “I’m going to have to say no to that. It’s going to be no to that today and it may be no to that for a while until we have time to figure it out.”


Amanda: No today, but not no forever. 


Paul: Okay, What else? Is there anything else we want to give them before we get out of this podcast? 


Amanda: I think we should give them one more question/example with the good and bad answer, because people are going to be wanting to know, how do I interview people for this?


CeCe: Well, I mean, you could go back to a conversation like we were talking about earlier with a time card demonstration or something else that is a repeated problem within your office and ask them to propose a solution or if they’ve dealt with a similar situation and how they improve the process. 


Amanda: Okay.


Paul: Tell me about a time when you face the same challenge that we have here, which, by the way, is the most powerful opening to any interview question: Tell me about a time when you and you know, the answers that can come from rank and file and say, “Well, I wasn’t in charge of timekeeping, but I know it was bad where I came from because people were always late and it was just causing a lot of problems.” And then on the other side was, tell me about a time and what did you do or how did your office cure this?


CeCe: And maybe when they weren’t in charge of it, but they noted it and so they put a reminder on their calendar so that they weren’t part of the problem.


Amanda: Oh, that’s good. 


Paul: Yeah, I like it. 


Amanda: Well, I think this was great. I think everyone should read that article in February when it comes out. 


Paul: Yeah. If you could chase it down and get into Dentaltown and read the article. We also have assets on this, stuff that we’re constantly writing about. I think it’s something we’re going to write about a lot this year. We’re going to keep trying to delve into it. 


Amanda: Definitely. It’s so important. 


Paul: CeCe, I appreciate that insight. This one, the helpful things of having, you know, HR for an HR company in the room. We get these little plips and pops. If you’re a leader out there and you have someone who’s a great multitasker, they may be on their way to burnout. If you could help them understand sequencing and if you yourself could gain a better understanding of it and I think that this is a caring conversation, right? This is, “I care about your work life here.” The motto over at CEDR Solutions is “Better workplace, better lives,” right? 


CeCe: Yep. 


Paul: And this goes towards that. Just telling someone that I want you to just think about this and helping them and giving them the tools. Yet another piece of software where they could track everything. You can help them to sequence or recognize maybe that your office manager is up front in office manager hell because of what’s going on up there. If you could recognize that and actually send proactive help up there to help them out or instead of sitting there because your first appointment canceled, you know, let your associates see their patient and get your butt up there and check in the first patient and see what kind of an impact that has on on your team and all that and on that patient. So, okay, everybody, this has been aWhat the Hell Just Happened in HR?! and the next thing we’re going to do is we’re going to get to a listener question. 


Amanda: Alright. Listener submitted question. “An employee requested to go from full time to part time due to too much stress and anxiety at the front desk. It was granted. The employee has a problem with deliverance. She speaks a certain way that doesn’t sit well with patients. Very strict with policies and cannot converse in a polite manner. We’ve had a couple of patients leave because of her attitude. I mentioned it to her and she was combative with me. I don’t think she’s a right fit for our cheery pediatric office. Because she has mentioned this job causes issues, would I get in trouble if I terminated her? Today she has mentioned she is finally getting help.”


Paul: Well, you know, that’s a good question. It’s a very common question. Let me shorten it. “We have someone here who doesn’t really fit our culture when it comes to kind of how we want to present ourselves. So our front stage is that we are cheery and we’re welcoming and our front stage is we have patient parents coming in. Our patients are their kids. It’s just one big stress ball. The kids are stressed. The parents are stressed because it’s like dental treatment times two.” Right? 


CeCe: And that’s a big deal in a pediatric office. I have a little kid. It’s a stressful thing. 


Paul: So some people are rule followers and that’s not a bad thing. But other people have trouble both with you know, we just talked about in the podcasts, they have trouble with multitasking and they just really don’t have that emotional intelligence that you’re looking for. They’re ticking off the job. “I answered the phone. I told them that they didn’t have insurance and that it wouldn’t cover it. What else do I need to do here? I mean, it’s not my fault they didn’t pay their insurance on time or they didn’t get their child covered by it. I did my job.” 


Amanda: It’s probably exactly that employee.


Paul: It is. Well, she’s efficient at the expense of the practice. So let me go all the way around. I think the HR kind of law question that’s tucked in the tail end of that, causes a little red flag, is she’s let me know that this job is stressful to her and it’s causing her issues and that she’s seeing someone for it. That’s not enough. Okay? That’s not enough. 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: When I say not enough, it’s not enough to give me pause to say that this person is not a cultural fit and they’re not performing well at the job. Right?


CeCe: Especially if this goes back to when you hired them because the job wasn’t causing stress that was impacting the behavior at that point.


Amanda: Oh! That’s a good point. 


Paul: Well, they knew what they were applying for. 


CeCe: That’s just how they approach the job.


Paul: Yeah, and patients have left because of her. Now, I just want to say to most listeners out there, to all listeners on this question: All people have bad days. All of us have bad days when we say and do something. So there needs to be some forgiveness there all the time. But as soon as someone is losing you patients and you know why and you know it’s because they’re curt and they’re rule followers and they can’t communicate well, you either have to shift them over and get them to change, (and by the way, good luck with that) or you have to put somebody else in the position and ultimately do a better job of asking questions during the interview to see if you are going to get the bright, cheery person.


Amanda: Yeah, that makes sense. 


Paul: Trust me, she was not bright and cheery during that interview.




Paul: But the problem is, is that a lot of times folks are interviewing and that professionalism that she probably portrayed/ That like “no nonsense” probably cut through like a sword to everything else that they were interviewing and they were just like, “She’s competent. She’s going to be here on time and she is competent and she is going to be there on time and she is going to do her job every day and she’s awful.” 


Amanda: All things can be true.


Paul: She’s not an awful human being. She’s been put in the wrong position at the wrong business. 


CeCe: They didn’t ask to give them an example of a time that she had to deliver some difficult news to somebody who attacked – 


Paul: And how they felt afterwards, because she would have said, “Well, you know, I told my husband, we’re done.”




Paul: And how did he react? He didn’t like it. But you know what? We were done.


Amanda: That’s exactly it.




Paul: It would have been like, “Okay.” 


Amanda: Well, that’s got to be the clip for Instagram.


Paul: I’d like to speak to your children. No! You cannot speak to my children. So anyway, I hope we answered the question a little bit. Look, culture fit is, I think, one of the most important things, but it’s got to be culture and competency together and if you have someone like you described, look, after you’ve lost a couple of patients, you have tons of documentation in place that you should have there. You have lots of…You should have been talking to the employee and coaching them and getting responses from them and if you’re doing all those things in your documenting it, then you’re in a very, very good position to be able to make changes in that position. That’s where I come from. If you weren’t documenting any of that and, “Yeah, we talked to her once about it and then she got so mad that we were scared to talk to her about it the second time because she made all of our lives miserable and no, I don’t have a lot of documentation.” Then you could have a problem here because she’s told you she might have a little bit of a medical condition.


Amanda: Talk to us at CEDR. 


Paul: Yeah, well, we can’t make magic, you know? We can’t work magic. But anyway.


Amanda: I’ll help you through it. [laughing]


Paul: Okay, so we do get questions. That was one of our questions.We’re going to try to squeeze these into every podcast so that we have a little bit more HR forward focus and I could talk more about barbecue. Thank you for listening to What the Hell Just Happened in HR?! and thanks, everybody. And Amanda, it’s good to have you in Tucson for a few days. She jumped ship and went to the Midwest. 




Paul: We’re not to say exactly where. Look, the Midwest knows you’re there. You need to be careful what you say.


Amanda: Can’t let them hear that.


Paul: Exactly. Alright, ya’ll. Thanks.


Amanda: Thanks.


CeCe: Thanks.


Voice Over: Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode of What the Hell Just Happened?! If you have an HR issue, question, or just want to add a comment about something Paul said, record it on your phone and send it to podcast@wthjusthappened.com. We might even ask if we can play it on the show. Don’t forget to Like and Subscribe and join us again next week.


Dec 18, 2023

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