Anesthesiologist Provides Lesson in Watching What You Say

“Think before you speak.”

“Be careful what you say.”

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Wisdom that anesthesiologist Tiffany M. Ingham probably should have taken to heart before mocking her patient while he was under. The episode, which is costing her and her practice $500,000, should be a reminder to all those whose businesses could suffer if the wrong words come out of their mouth, put on social media, or sent in an email. She’s the latest example of how we all need to remember to watch what we say about clients or we could wind up being the next headline. Keep reading for the details.


A Virginia man listened to his doctor’s post-procedure instructions on his smart phone on his way home from a colonoscopy procedure in April 2013. To his dismay, he heard Ingham mocking him while he was unconscious from anesthesia. The list of insults from her is lengthy: saying she wanted to punch him in the face, teasing his fear of needles and even making fun of a rash on his genitals with references to syphilis and tuberculosis. The most alarming, however, was saying she should falsely note on his chart that he had hemorrhoids, which she actually did. The patient sued for defamation and medical malpractice and last week, won the case.

The hospital released an apology, adding that Ingham is no longer working for them. Some reflections that businesses can take out of this situation:

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

Clients are a business’ source of income. If you get caught saying something bad about your client, it is very possible they may take their business elsewhere. You’re also putting your reputation at risk. An offended client could spread the news to other current or even potential clients and hurt business. In the age of the internet, burned clients could post about the incident online, where the potential to damage your reputation is even more far-reaching. Just imagine them posting about it to social media where anything can go viral. A note should be made here to never post negatively on social media about your client or make negative commentary in an email. That could only make your comments more visible and permanent than if just done verbally.

Avoid creating an unnecessary crisis

Among the many expectations a client has when they hire you is professionalism. They don’t want to work with a company they consider petty, unkind, or arrogant. A snide comment could just spin things out of control. Offended clients could sue, leaving you with fines, lawsuits, and crises. 

Encourage a positive culture

Negativity can spread like a virus. If one person in the office (especially a leader) begins badmouthing a client, then others may find it acceptable and be tempted to do it as well. This sort of behavior can accrue into a negative work culture. Side effects of a negative culture include attrition, lower productivity, bad morale, stress, disloyalty, disagreements and even fear.

What to do if you find your organization in this situation

The best policy is to own up to the situation and apologize to the affected individual or company. Meet with the client in person, make sure a senior member is in attendance to show the seriousness of your apology, and be ready to move on – whether for better or worse. If the situation escalates onto social media or in the news, it may be necessary to issue a public apology.

Teach your employees by example. Instead of talking down on your clients, brainstorm ways to solve whatever it is about them that’s irking you. Think of ways to talk to your client about the issue without being negative. A positive culture goes a long way towards a more positive client and more positive sales.

Finally, learn from the mistake. Better yet, next time you consider saying something negative about a colleague, remember Ingham’s story. Then you won’t have to experience the consequences yourself. To be on the safe side, never speak badly about a client – current, former or potential.

What are your thoughts on the Ingham story? Do you know of any interesting stories of business’ talking badly about a client? Share below.

(photo credit: <a href=”″>stethoscope</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>)

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