April 25, 2008

elevate: Answering the Tough Questions

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Medical Center leadership answers the tough questions about what the elevate program is and what it means for the people who work at VUMC.

Question: I've worked at Vanderbilt for six months and one thing I have noticed is that people are not very friendly. No eye contact in the halls, no “good morning” on elevators. Kind of weird for the South.

Answer: This question may involve an element of subjectivity.

I don't happen to perceive our Medical Center as an unfriendly place to work. I'm quite proud, in fact, of our institution's reputation for collegiality, and I believe the atmosphere at VMC is generally one of openness and goodwill. I can add that there's nothing in our satisfaction survey data that would suggest that we're a particularly unfriendly lot.

While our personal perceptions in this regard do apparently differ, I find something appealing about this question. People should expect friendliness at VMC, and that an employee should demand to know why he hasn't found it here — that somehow cheers me. At VMC, our organizational culture is certainly fair game. We welcome all constructive criticism.

We're building an institution where everyone is able to achieve their best work, and I suppose I like this question in part because it's a good reminder that we all have a role in that regard. We're all shaping organizational culture at VMC.

And yes, it's not just a story we tell each other: Southerners do have friendlier ways. As our institution has grown, the pace of activity has increased and we've gotten busier, but I trust we have not yet turned cold.

— Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs