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How Would Your Office Handle This ‘Chatty Cathy’?

She’s a valued optician, but she’s hurting patient flow and creating more work for others.




“Ugh, I love Cathy to death, but she is the worst person to work with,” Leo vented to his co-worker, Amy.

“I feel the same way,” Amy replied. “Every time I work with her, we can never catch up and always have a list of patients waiting.”


Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved and should not be confused with real people or places. Responses are peer-sourced opinions and are not a substitute for professional legal advice. Please contact your attorney if you have any questions about an employee or customer situation in your own business.


Carissa Dunphy has been working in private practice optometry since 2008 and is the founder of Optician Now ( Follow Carissa on Instagram and Facebook at @opticiannow.

“There is absolutely no doubt that Cathy is great at her job — she knows every little detail about the ins and outs of running this entire office
and she is fantastic with patients.” Leo continued, “She is just incapable of wrapping up a conversation with a patient in a timely manner.”

Leo and Amy continued as usual, rushing more than they should, trying to make up time for the patients waiting—caused by being “down” a team-member. At the end of the day, Cathy was able to leave on time because she only had two orders to process.

Both Leo and Amy stayed after closing to work on entering orders, each having around 10 to enter.


Dr. Granden was casually doing closing rounds and noticed the two working. “Hey, you two — looks like you were busy! I appreciate you staying a bit late to get the orders in!”

Leo and Amy both gave each other side-eye and continued working.

“Looks like Cathy got out of here on time.” Dr. Granden continued, “I don’t see any pending orders on her desk; she must have got them all in.”

Again, both Leo and Amy continued working, not responding to Dr. Granden.

“Hello?” Dr. Granden added, “Talk to me, what’s going on?”

Leo and Amy looked at each other and both understood that this was their opportunity.

“Don’t get us wrong, we both love Cathy — she is great at her job…” Leo said in one breath.

Amy added, “But she is taking an unnecessarily long amount of time with every patient and it’s causing both of us to have to work much faster to pick up the slack of her slow pace.”

“For every one patient she helps, we each help like five.” Leo continued, “On top of the patient flow being a logjam, we have five times more orders to process, too.”

“We just don’t know what to do — us having to get through a list of patients every day is ultimately providing a lower quality of care for any patient that any of us three works with — nobody wants to wait in a line and nobody wants it to take an hour to order a pair of glasses.” Amy concluded, “I draw the line when my patients experience a reduced quality of care.”

Dr. Granden looked disheartened, “I have noticed that you two usually have more trays on your desk than Cathy, but I didn’t correlate the two — resulting from her taking so much time with each patient.”

Leo and Amy quietly nodded.


“Knowing Cathy, this needs to be addressed delicately so she knows we’re coming from a good place.” Dr. Granden added, “I’ll touch base with you before the end of the week with my thoughts.”

The Big Questions

  • Doctors have specified time blocks for patient appointments. Should there be a “golden rule” for the amount of time a sales team member should be spending with a patient?
  • How would you go about implementing that? How do you determine if each staff member is pulling their weight and spending their time wisely?
  • How would you address the one staff member possibly being offended, while maintaining satisfaction with the other staff?


Steven A.
East Norwich, NY

Make Cathy the office manager and have her place all the lab orders, period! Have the other two employees handle all the sales and deal with all patient needs. The office will now operate much better.

Rick R.
Girard, PA

I don’t know about a “golden rule,” but common sense should be applied. One, the doctor should have noticed this long ago. Two, Cathy had to have some sense of what she was doing. Having a set time to be with a patient is Cathy’s problem and should only be addressed to her. Why does the rest of the staff have to be reminded of something they don’t do? The workload should be fairly even. Just count the jobs at the end of the day and you can figure that one out. When addressing it, it has to be a carefully crafted script. You don’t want to lose a good employee but on the other hand, you might lose two.

Mary N.
Toledo, OH

Cathy needs to be told about the cost to the business in having too much chit chat, and to cut conversations shorter. Let Cathy know it’s OK if these conversations turn into sales; if the customer talks about a vacation, turn it into a sunglasses sale or a second pair (backup). She doesn’t need to be rude when a customer is talking but if you work as a team there are ways to help. Tell her to bring everything back to a sale! And if the sale is made and the customer is still talking, have another coworker fake a phone call to the office and remove the optician to end the conversation.

Pam P.
Downers Grove, IL

We schedule appointments in optical. When a patient is scheduling an exam, we verify if they would like to look at glasses afterwards or if they need an adjustment so that we can book that appointment as well. Patients are informed that we are booking a 40-minute appointment for them to set expectations for time. We refer to this appointment/service as a “concierge” or “personal shopper service.”

Cindy H.
Chattanooga, TN

We’ve got one of those and one that has the opposite problem. They’re so competitive that they rush to the next customer, leaving critical information off the previous customer’s order —including payment.

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