Just Be Nice – I Want Your Thoughts

Two important events converged into one thought process that I want to share with you.  I had the opportunity to speak to the Sauk Valley Leadership Group on the topic of community citizenship.  This meeting was followed two days later by the Illinois Hospital Association Transforming Illinois Task Force.

A question from the Leadership Group asked what my greatest concern was for our community.  My response focused on societal acceptance of rude, disrespectful behavior.  We see it most visibly in the political process, and my belief is the behavior is becoming acceptable in the workplace.

The IHA Task Force centered on Springfield. The feeling there is that it no longer matters what might best serve Illinois from a policy perspective, but rather who wins.

My job is to rally 950 team members together around a common goal of world-class care for the patients and families we are fortunate to serve.  That job is made more difficult when our staff are subjected to rude, belittling, aggressive behavior not only from patients but from each other.

Stopping patient behavior is tough.  Stopping staff behavior is a mandate.

The topic is important to me and speaks to our culture.  I am interested in your perspective.  Am I seeing this correctly, or overplaying a tough two days?

I look forward to your response by clicking on “Email David”.

Note:  I sent this note to KSB Hospital’s Board of Directors.  I received this response from Joe Welty, M. D.  I am sharing his comments with Dr. Welty’s permission.


I believe the answer begins with all of us looking at the person in the mirror each day and refusing to allow ourselves to be pulled into the negativity that our world is throwing at us each day.  It is amazing how easy it is to put a smile on your face and greet others each morning.

Set an example, be an example, live your life as an example and pull others along with you.


  • Luke Herbert
    Posted at 08:40h, 28 August Reply

    This is a big deal, and Dr. Welty hit the nail on the head. We see front line staff set amazing examples every day as witnessed in some very cool WOW posts last week and every week…. most often by quiet example and friendly smiles, often in the setting of a challenging day. This is also an opportunity very much on the shoulders of Directors and middle managers to keep a pulse on our areas and when needed to listen, and to be ready and willing to help and support. Fortunately, this kind of thing can be very contiguous. “It”s the people”.

  • ksbpulse
    Posted at 10:02h, 28 August Reply

    Thank you for your comment, Luke. Miracles do happen every day at KSB.

  • Andrea
    Posted at 14:54h, 28 August Reply


    As you aware, I deal with negative comments/attitudes from patients, community members, and sadly at times, our staff on a regular basis. I couldn’t agree more with your answer to your leadership group. Rude and disrespectful behavior is everywhere anymore and I do not know when/how it ever became tolerated. I can certainly say that it was never acceptable in my home growing up or in school when I was a student. I was taught to be respectful, kind, and caring. It was instilled in me to be grateful for each day and to try and be better than the day before.

    I know that I personally love Gandhi’s quote” You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I know that I am only one person….but I truly try to always be positive as I don’t want to be one more negative nelly in this world.

    P.S. Just a thought….. but I would LOVE to see “Be Kind” added to our Core Values.

  • Debbie Gortowski, CPNP
    Posted at 15:18h, 28 August Reply

    One kind word can change someone’s entire day. A little consideration and a little thought for others can make all the difference in a day, week, month, year.

    Niceness is one of two ways we show respect. The other is its opposite, giving honest critical feedback.

    The tension between these two is hard. We honor people by biting our tongues. Yet, when we do this, we are not giving them the honest truth about themselves.
    Conversely, we can humiliate people by giving them critical feedback.

    Every time we discourage people from sharing thoughts we don’t want to hear, we risk losing access to thoughts we should at some point, need to hear.

    Constructive criticism is needed, especially in the workplace. That is how we grow.

    There is a book written in 2001: Just Be Nice…and Other Lost Arts of Etiquette for Management. Lost art indeed! I don’t think it is an “art.” I believe we have to be taught and shown etiquette and how to be nice. It begins in the home with parents teaching young children manners and politeness. Action speak louder than words.

    Ordinary changes that contribute to extraordinary positive change in the world do make a difference. We should all watch for those ordinary chances to make a difference every day!

  • Christie C.
    Posted at 16:35h, 29 August Reply

    One of my coworkers has a Maya Angelou quote taped to her desk, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It really struck me the first time I sat down and thought about it.

    I think that boundaries are important. I think an overall lack of patience is partly to blame for rude behavior, but I also think that attitude plays a large role as well. Stopping conversations that don’t need to be had or excusing one’s self from gossip are intimidating the first time, but once people know what is and isn’t expected and allowed in an area, behavior generally falls in line with those expectations.
    Just like we are encouraged to not discuss sensitive and dividing topics like politics with other employees, I have requested that our patients change the subject in the waiting room when someone seems uncomfortable (myself included.) and I try to be sure that expectations are communicated to patients, like silencing cell phones or removing one’s self from a public area to take a call.
    I also think that the emphasis on customer service has a role to play in training bad behavior into our community. Yes, patients have every right to question their physicians if they aren’t comfortable with a treatment plan or don’t understand something, but no it isn’t acceptable to verbally attack staff members in order to communicate dissatisfaction. Yes, they are 100% entitled to experiencing their feelings, but no they are not allowed to take their feelings out on employees or coworkers. While the idea that the customer is always right is a mainstream idea in America, I feel like patients are treating heath care more like retail and less like science. Expressing an angry attitude doesn’t change rules and facts (like hipaa or clinic hours), nor does it make health care workers eager to help.
    I think that as an organization, our focus on satisfaction scores from patients has overshadowed some aspects of healthcare in negative ways. This year’s health stream presentation on cross cultural communication was much more my speed in regards to employee/patient interaction. AIDET is for me a really helpful way to make sure that we as employees who are used to the medical setting don’t forget to involve patients in their own care by explaining things to our patients and our community who might be unfamiliar and thus stressed out, anxious, or scared.
    I think that, in regards to patient behavior, employees need to be coached in how to firmly control situations that are getting out of hand. I know more than one registrar who has been yelled at or cursed at (or even both) by frustrated patients, which leaves them with hurt feelings and high stress. Having some scripting and practicing verbal de-escalation techniques with staff can empower employees to not feel out of control with a patient or family member and to recover situations where people are acting out because they are scared or frustrated.

  • Jason Brusky
    Posted at 11:18h, 01 September Reply

    This is a growing societal problem that I feel is only getting worse due to less face to face and verbal interactions. So many people communicate by text, post with Facebook and twitter, etc. It is easier to be rude or say things you may not say otherwise when you are not directly in front of or in verbal contact with a person. As you get more desensitized to this, you start doing it in person. Then we get to see all of this reality TV and there is no filter on the verbal interactions between these people (people being nice and respectable to each other just doesn’t get ratings.) The more people see this, the more it is acceptable. Thumper’s mother’s advice (“if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”) is forgotten.

    • Mbw
      Posted at 07:27h, 15 April Reply


      Yes, I truly believe you just hit the nail on the head. Society as a whole is full of too many followers with less leaders these days. Or simply put, ones that will stand out to make a difference.
      Most people these days would rather float downstream with the dead, rather than be alive and swim upstream, making a difference. Monkey see, monkey do.
      If each person contributes one little bit, things can change.
      A smile is contagious.

  • Robert Dunbar
    Posted at 07:48h, 05 September Reply


    I don’t see this happening in my department, where people genuinely respect each other. I have seen this happen to someone close to me who does not work at KSB. This is what I’ve thought as I reflected on that experience: All workplaces have, or say they have, a chain of command to deal with any kind of inappropriate or unprofessional behavior. That includes aggressively rude co-workers—not folks having a bad day who lost their cool, but the ones who day after day mock, embarrass and bully their coworkers.

    I think there are (at least) two kinds of people who create this problem. On one hand you have the bullies. They create stress and tension to get what they want. They know they are doing it and they intend to do it. On the other hand you have the ones caught up in the turmoil of the moment. They are angry or afraid. They lash out because, in part, they know of no other way to handle what they feel. The first impulse is always emotional.

    Is this a bigger social problem? Yes, it clearly is. There are two key values that American culture no longer holds: 1) Respect others, and 2) Control yourself. We give lip service to both but we practice them selectively. “Respect others” becomes: “Shut up; I’m talking.” “Control yourself” turns into: “Look what you made me do.” What we say is not what we model. Our culture lifts up anger as a virtue and selfishness as a good. These two things, though, go against the heart of healthcare. We can’t practice medicine if we can’t practice patience and compassion.

    Robert Dunbar
    KSB Hospital
    Materials Management

  • Lanetta Whitlock
    Posted at 11:52h, 06 September Reply


    I agree with you wholeheartedly. Most of us learned the golden rule at a young age. Treat others as you would want to be treated. That doesn’t say we should never have to give correction to someone or take that correction. But we should do it is a kind way that does not belittle or hurt someone. In my humble opinion there is too much just thinking of ourselves in our culture now and not enough Just being nice to each other while we go about our daily activities.

    Lanetta Whitlock

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