My Work Personality

My brother, Lee, was making fun of me last night. He said I was using my “work” voice, or more accurately, my “clinical tone” with our parents.

I guess we all have are tones/voices/personas. We act differently with our co-workers, bosses, family, parents, friends, husbands/wives…This is a necessity, especially for me, because I am naturally pushy and “in your face”. It has been a life long challenge for me to learn how to use those parts of my personality appropriately. Lee however, seems to think I use my work voice too often when I’m not at work.

I have to admit, when my kids start to frustrate me I sometimes practice my customer service skills on them. Is that so wrong? Can I use that voice with my parents also? Why not? (Hopefully my mother doesn’t take offense to this) Lee says I’m coddling them. I don’t  think so. I’m being supportive. Is that so terrible? Believe me, I know how to speak my mind. If I say it in a super respectful tone of voice and my parents feel respected, is that so terrible?

I think not! Sorry Lee, I think you’re wrong here.

tone-of-voice3When I teach a class on dementia I always say, “Never argue with a patient with dementia.” Then I pause for a second and always follow-up with, “Don’t argue with any of your patients.” It’s not our job to be right, its our job to help our patients make better decisions. We can’t force them to do anything.

Don’t even bother and try.

This is another thing I practice on my kids. I can try to force them to do things, but I know better. From my 3-year-old to my 22 year old, I can only make suggestions (threats). If I try to put the 3 year old in a coat she doesn’t like, she may just take it off, no matter how many times I put it on her. If I try to force my teenage daughter to wear her clothing a certain way (that I find acceptable) she is still going to do what she wants. There have been suggestions that this practice makes me an ineffective parent, but I know how to choose my battles.

I am not going to insist that my child wear a winter hat or eat their vegetables. I try my very best to be a model of good behavior and I try to find other ways to help them see my point of view. It’s in these situations that I use my tone of voice to help appeal to their sense of reason.

As a salesman and a parent I am sure that Lee would agree that your tone of voice and how you say something can often make all the difference.

Its important when I use my work voice that it should never sound fake. After all,  I don’t want to sound insincere. I want to sound super intelligent, patient, empathetic and professional. In fact, now that I think about it, maybe I should be using my work voice all the time.  After all, intelligent, patient, empathetic and professional isn’t bad in any situation I can think of.

Now I’m confused.

The way I see it, we can’t force people to do things, but if we say things in the right tone, we have a better chance of success and getting our point across.

At work, my job is a sort of nurse-ish-customer-service-y type of position.

One of my patients called me recently to tell me she wasn’t feeling well. I had to use both my nurse skills and my customer service skills to assess the situation. After several questions I determined that she was experiencing symptoms that could be life threatening. While sounding intelligent, patient, empathetic and professional I had to convince (force) her to seek immediate medical attention. It was not easy.  I called her cousin to enlist his help ( More work voice here). I had to calmly relay the information to the cousin without freaking him out but yet I still needed to communicate the seriousness of the situation. Then my patient explained to me that she would not go the hospital unless her physician was aware and ready and waiting for her upon her arrival. After trying to convince her otherwise I promised to call the physician. I called the doctor’s office and was immediately put on hold. This was actually an emergency. Eventually someone came back on the line and put me on hold again. When someone finally asked me why I was calling I was told that the physician wasn’t in the office until later that day. I asked (hopefully), “Is he at the hospital now?” The secretary said he was. I continued to explain why I was calling and she said to call 911.


I called back the patient happy to tell her that the physician is in fact at the hospital and I once again explained to the patient that her symptoms could be something serious and that she really should call 911 , I even offered to call for her. Again she refused, leaving me with no choice but to use my work voice to (threaten) convince her of the need to go to the hospital. My work tone was very important here. I was desperately trying to force someone to do something with my special work voice.

You see, it’s a balance. While I usually work as nurse-ish-customer-service-y type, sometimes my job does involves life and death. So while  it important that I come across as super intelligent, patient, empathetic and professional, it’s also super important that I keep my patients alive by almost any means necessary.

So, its complicated. Yes, I have a work voice, but its a necessity. When I go to work in my suit and heels it may not look life and death, but sometimes it is. Yes, most days I am just a regular plain old nurse supervisor. But on some days I have to break out my work voice to keep people from doing things that could kill them.

Things I’ve Learned: 

  1. How something is said can be more important that what is said
  2. I really respect my brother
  3. Sometimes he’s  wrong