Better management decisions might be the remedy!

As healthcare workers, you and your staff have the rather dubious distinction of being among the most stressed-out employees currently in the workforce. In addition to physical stresses like lifting or standing, there are emotional burdens that can come from witnessing psychological and physical traumas on a daily basis; emergencies take their toll on everyone who deals with them. As a manager, you have extra pressures to cope with and likely find yourself facing the same exasperating issues that come with almost any supervisory job: hiring/firing dilemmas, personality conflicts, tight deadlines, etc.

One of your responsibilities is to respond to subordinates when they seem to be floundering or experiencing major setbacks. If you’ve noticed an overall decrease in the enthusiasm of your staff, it may be more than just an early case of the summer doldrums. Experts agree that absenteeism, tardiness, or negative attitudes can spike when employees feel stressed on the job. Stress can lead to poor health, injuries, apathy, absenteeism or bad judgment — things that will take down even a highly esteemed medical facility.

There are some stresses that can be eased and others that can be eliminated if certain measures are taken. For example, we know that anxieties develop when workers and workers’ conditions do not mesh. Differences in individual characteristics, like personality, work pace and level of assertiveness need to be considered when predicting whether certain job conditions will result in stress; what might be stressful for one person may not be stressful for someone else.

A worker who likes routines and predictability in his or her day will find busy, hectic, volatile environments very unpleasant. Pushing those who maintain a moderate pace is usually ineffective and often breeds resentment, confusion and confrontation. As time passes, the misplaced worker finds reasons to stay at home and the frustrated supervisor is often glad he or she did! A person on staff who is unable to keep up with the demands of a busy healthcare facility, accomplishes very little, indeed, and too often does more harm than good.

Stress can also be the result of poor communication between a worker and a superior. Managers sometimes assume that all staff members want intense oversight, close management, yet more independently minded employees will resent this. When there is a conflict between job demands and the amount of control an employee actually has over meeting these demands, problems occur, tempers flare and pressures build. Thus, the importance of understanding one another, accommodating needs, is clear.

When assembling your team, know your requirements. Be honest with yourself about your management techniques. Are you the type who controls situations, resists delegating tasks to others and keeps everybody on a short leash? If so, you need to surround yourself with people who want clear direction, individuals who like seeking consensus before taking action. Hiring people who are self-directing or eager to formulate their own unique theories would be a big mistake.

Conversely, if you tend to have a loosely structured, “hands off” business style, don’t take on employees who need constant guidance and details unless you’re well prepared to deal with frequent interruptions and constant questions. Make sure the people you hire are self-sufficient, confident and ready to resolve their own problems. Otherwise, you may feel like you’re babysitting more often than not!

Here are some tactics you can apply to lessen pressure on the job:

  • Define each subordinate’s role.

Make sure each employee knows precisely what you do and do not expect. This will avoid confusion and help to bring any conflicts between your expectations and those of your employee, to the forefront. Setting goals, defining objectives and determining levels of responsibility will give everyone something real to work toward.

  • Know your communication pattern.

You don’t want to speak a language no one else can understand. Consider the personalities of existing members of your team before taking on someone new. Feelings of resentment and demoralization are sure to follow if one person clearly does not fit in or relate to what the others are saying.

  • Assess your own work pace.

If you tend to be quick, chances are you’ll want staff members who can keep up with you, deal with emergencies and stay flexible when it comes to juggling priorities. However, if you’re the type who does not rush and tends to systematically, methodically, tackle one task at a time, you’re bound to expect the same of your employees; a person who can’t sit still will annoy you.

  • Determine how much assistance you are willing to give an employee.

People acclimate to new responsibilities and new environments in various manners and at various speeds; some are more willing than others to take risks. Remember though, that precision can sometimes be compromised when individuals try to take matters into their own hands. Can you deal with imperfection?

Managing employees who are clearly quite different from you or from your needs may take an extra amount of time and patience, but it can be done. For example, if you find yourself overseeing a person who is friendly but just a little too chatty, set specific tasks that must be completed within a certain period of time and double-check the results. Hold the employee accountable for his or her tasks and do not accept excuses for shortfalls. Long-winded people often waste time bantering, making small talk; they also think they can charm their way out of trouble.

There are some who believe that stress in the workplace can be a positive experience, though it’s likely they’re mistaking challenges for stress. Challenges can inspire us, pump us up, awaken our sense of spirit, but real stress will lead to mental and physical deterioration or chronic fatigue, anger, depression and general feelings of helplessness. Why not take charge of the situations you can control and make what is already a pressure-filled workplace a little bit less so?

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