Divergent Paths and the Protean “No”

July 10, 2015

Is it worth pushing radiologists out of their comfort zone?

After years of talking about it, I finally took the plunge and bought myself a new home. A substantial improvement over my last, it was larger and had a number of extras…which means that it had numerous additional ways to require maintenance and repair.

The place was just far enough from my previous dwelling that most of my tried-and-true contacts for such things (electrician, plumber, general contractor, etc.) were not realistic options, and I dreaded randomly trying names out of the Yellow Pages (does anybody still use those?). Even sources like Angie’s List had burned me in the past. Fortunately, I remained on good terms with the folks who sold me the place, and they had kindly given me a list of contacts for everything from their cleaning lady to a certified arborist.

As the weeks and months drifted by, I slowly learned that I would not be retaining all of the names on that list. A few of them proved to be gems, but others were real turkeys (apologies to any meleagrine readers I may have). While there was no real way of knowing in advance which ones would be the keepers, I might have figured it out sooner than I ultimately did; in hindsight, some gave me pretty clear signals.

None simply stated that they didn’t want my business, and I suspect some weren’t even consciously aware of their own reluctance. The most common stand-in for a verbal “No, thanks” was foot-dragging: Increasing delays before returning calls or e-mails, turning up late or rescheduling appointments (sometimes at the last minute), wishy-washiness when discussing future plans, etc. Behavior, which, in the absence of good reviews from the previous owners, would have more speedily gotten these guys kicked to my curb.

I have no idea why my experience with these folks differed so much. Perhaps they used to be hungrier for business, and were now more established, resting on their laurels. Maybe they’d developed personal problems. Maybe the previous owners of my new house were just more charismatic than me, and/or the assorted referrals just didn’t like my face. Bottom line was that I found myself having to do more and more coaxing and prodding…and the work that I was able to extract from them was increasingly non-coax worthy.

Whatever reason, they were effectively telling me “No, we don’t want to do this work for you,” and if I didn’t take their unspoken message to heart, I would go on experiencing hassles with them and the quality of their services. Indeed, as our paths diverged further from one another, the divide between us would increase, and it would probably become even more like pulling teeth to work with them.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"39449","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_6569459220731","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"3951","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 200px; width: 200px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"©shockfactor.de/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

A situation I had seen before, in my own field. Sometimes as a third party observer, and sometimes as the individual who was not in a position to simply say “No.” Hired as a body imager, for instance, by an employer who decided (perhaps even knew beforehand) that he wanted to morph me into a mammo guy. Or a proceduralist. Seeing rads initially taken on for weekdays, then pressured to cover weekend hours. Technologists capable and happy doing X-ray, forced to cover CT or MRI (not always entirely trained for the purpose). Docs most content reading cases or seeing patients, pressured to take on academic or research roles.

Even if compliant with a forced change, a coerced individual may create or add to a list of dissatisfactions with his current gig. However aligned his path had previously been with the folks in charge, he might now be nudged a degree or two divergent…perhaps a small difference today, but even minor angulation grows to significant distances with the leverage of time.

True, it’s possible to open someone’s eyes to a new area of interest. Nudge them out of their comfort zone, and they might be as surprised as anyone when they turn out to be a whiz in the new theater of operations. Also true that he who pays the piper calls the tune, and if someone’s signing the paychecks, he has more than a little say in what the employees are supposed to do.

That said, it seems a waste of effort and goodwill to lead a resistant horse to water when you have a reasonable doubt that he’ll want to drink it. Especially when there are probably other, thirstier takers around.