Thirty years ago, Dr. Lee Goldman wrote an article titled “Ten Commandments for Effective Consultation”. I’ve taken some liberties with his recommendations in the context of practice in an era...
If you are like many Americans, you probably wake up each morning thinking “I’d really like to screw up my life and lose my job today”. Well, some good news for you – I can help. I’m going to show you how you can destroy your career and lose you job simply by getting on your computer in the morning, before you even go into work. All you have to do is use email. After decades of observing physicians and hospital employees use email to mess up their lives and make people really dislike them, I now know the secrets and I’m going to pass them on to you today.
- When replying to an email, always use the “reply to all” button. This is such an easy way to infuriate people that I don’t understand why so few people use it. Sometimes, the use of “rely to all” is only just a minor annoyance, for example, when the department chairman sends out an email to all of the faculty announcing that a member of the faculty received a prestigious award or research grant – there is always a few people that will use “reply to all” to echo the congratulations. After the 15th or 20th time that your email alert goes off with these, you feel like you are in a pinball machine with the little metal ball bouncing endlessly back and forth between two mechanical flippers. But there are some people who have perfected the art of “reply to all” and use it to thank the administrative assistant who sends out the weekly grand rounds lecture announcement with the philosophy that no email is to small to reply to all. You can use this strategy to clog up dozens of people’s email accounts with your inane comments.
- If you can communicate something to someone with a 1-minute phone call or an email that takes you 20 minutes to type, always use email. Everyone will realize that you are wasting time inefficiently and it is a great way to make your boss pass you over for promotion or raises.
- Email while intoxicated. There is no law against it like there is with driving and it is a great way to sound like an idiot. This is particularly effective when coupled with off-color jokes since as that joke gets forwarded to more and more people, it is bound to eventually end up forwarded to someone in human resources. Not only is this a great way to get fired but it is also a great way to be sure that no other hospital in the area will hire you.
- Attach liberally. One of the best ways to become disliked using email is to send an email out with nothing but the message “see attached” and then attach a 20 or 30 page document, or better yet, several documents. Since there is nothing else in the body of your email message, the recipient will have to open the attachment and read it to figure out what you are trying to communicate. This is a guaranteed way to infuriate.
- When you are angry or if you get a particularly unpleasant email, always respond immediately. If you wait 10 minutes, you might have calmed down and actually responded in a rational and restrained way but if you respond right away, you’re far more likely to type in a message that you will later regret. It is much better to come across as an irrational hothead which is a far easier way to lose your job. Remember, a temper tantrum only lasts 5 minutes but an email lasts forever.
- If you have something critical to say about someone, always use email rather than a phone call or a face-to-face conversation. An email is a contagious thing and you should say anything by email that you would want taped to the front door of the hospital. So if you want to communicate that a manager made a really stupid purchasing decision, or a newly hired physician’s wife is really ugly, or one of the senior physicians is incompetent, be sure to put it in an email since there is a good chance that it will be forwarded repeatedly until it finds its way back to the manager/new physician/senior physician. This is a fantastic and highly effective way to screw up your life.
- Use unsecured email to communicate patient information. Unfortunately, the hospital’s email system is maintained on a secure server so you won’t get fired by sending another hospital employee patient-related information by email. Fortunately, any email address that ends in “gmail.com”, “yahoo.com”, or “hotmail.com” is not secure and so a political candidate who is trying to dig up information about his adversary (who is your patient) can easily pose as your patient by email to get information about his recent hemorrhoid operation. Since this is also a violation of federal HIPAA laws, it is not only a sure-fire why to lose your job but as an extra bonus, you can also end up in federal court!
- Use sarcasm liberally. You can wear your emotions on your sleeve but your email has no emotion. With facial gestures and voice intonation, everyone will realize that you are making a sarcastic response or a joke. But in email, it can become threatening or just make you look stupid. Unfortunately, doing this once or twice is not enough to get you fired but if you make this a regular part of your day, then eventually you’ll irritate enough people to at least make everyone hate you.
- If you have an argument with someone, it is always better to do it by email. Email arguments are great – you always eventually say something that you later regret and the person you are arguing with is far more likely to forward your email to the person who will be in the best position to terminate your job.
- Whenever you are on vacation, always use the automatic reply function on your email account and be sure to indicate exactly how long you’ll be gone and where you are traveling to. That way, the guy who is sending you spam or a phishing email will know that it is open season on all of your belongings in your house. If you want to be even more sure of messing up your life, indicate in the automatic reply that you keep a spare key under your front doormat and include your house alarm code in the email.
- If you get an email from someone that you don’t know that asks you to open the attachment, always open it, particularly if it looks like the email comes from some place in Eastern Europe, Russia, or an island in the Pacific Ocean that you’ve never heard of. There is a great chance that this is a phishing attempt and a great way to get malware loaded into your computer. If you’ve been trying to get your monthly direct-deposit paycheck diverted to someone’s bank account in Costa Rica, this may be your best opportunity.
The internet has made our lives easier in so many ways and email has brought us lots of great opportunities to wreck our careers and lives. So, next time you wake up trying to decide what you can do today that will be really stupid and maybe even that you can regret for the rest of your life, you don’t need to go any further than your email account.
September 19, 2016