Do happy staff = happy patients?

May 10, 2011

If a medical practice's staff is successful in the pursuit of happiness, does it really mean that practice will have happy patients as well? Experts disagree.

Thomas Jefferson enshrined in this country's civil religion the "pursuit of happiness" as an unalienable right. But if a medical practice's staff is successful in that pursuit, does it translate into happy patients?

In a 2009 Harvard Business Review article, Rosa Chun, a professor of business ethics and corporate social responsibility, and Gary Davies, a professor of corporate reputation at Manchester Business School in the United Kingdom, wrote a brief article disputing the conventional wisdom that happy employees yield happy customers. Their study, they say, found no correlation between employee satisfaction and service. But others are skeptical-very skeptical.

Not surprisingly, those on both sides of the issue can point to research to support their position.

WHAT IS "HAPPY"?

Engagement may be a better term, suggests Nicholas Lavroff, PhD, a retired industrial psychologist and a member of the Patterson, New York-based Taico Incentive Services' advisory committee. Employee engagement results from the recognition of employees' contributions to company goals, as well as reinforcement of the employee's actions through a clearly stated reward and recognition system, Lavroff says. The clearer the association between the employee's actions and their subsequent rewards, the stronger the connection and the greater the control over the employee's behavior in the workplace.

Of course, "engagement" can be almost as challenging to appropriately define as "happiness." Lavroff suggests that true engagement requires: