In Chapter 1 of the Mandt System we discuss information from Hiam Ginott and how it is our personal approach that creates the climate, our daily mood that makes the weather, and how we have tremendous power to make someone’s life miserable or joyous. This miserable or joyous life can be one of the greatest causes of conflict in the workplace. This was highlighted for me this past week. My 86 year old mother is currently in a rehabilitation center after a fall, partial hip replacement, and a pacemaker. Spending this past week with her I was able to meet many of the different staff that work with her on a daily basis and hear her stories about the staff.
Do not get me wrong, she is in a very good place. Most of the staff are caring and friendly professionals. A few staff, however, would be better off with new career choices. By sitting in the corner and watching as each staff member would enter mom’s room, I could tell from her reaction how she felt about each of them. As most of them would enter her room a smile would cross her face as she would tell them what she needed. They would perform their tasks with a smile on their face and engage mom in conversation, usually saying hi to me as well and asking if I was the son from Michigan. As they would leave mom would say “I like that one,” or “she’s always so nice,” or some equally pleasant comment. Having my mom feel safe and happy goes a long way to creating a safe workplace for the staff.
A few of her stories, however, point out the other side of staff. One afternoon a CNA answered her call light and proceeded to mutter under her breath for most of the time she was working with mom. I was not in the room at the time and mom could not hear everything, but she made the assumption that the staff person was complaining about something. That encounter made mom a little hesitant to activate her call light later in the day for fear the same staff person would be the one to answer. She later said, in reference to this staff, “If you can’t be bothered to help other people, you shouldn’t come to work.” Another morning she woke up and needed assistance using the restroom so she activated her call light. Shortly thereafter an aide came in and said “what do you want?” When mom told her she needed to use the restroom, the aide’s response was “we’re about to change shifts, can you hold it for a while?” An 86 year old woman who is almost totally dependent on others is not going to argue with that. When mom told me the story, I told her if that ever happens again, her answer is to be a resounding, “no,” followed by reporting the aide to anyone that would listen. For a stretch of time mom’s condition required the assistance of two aides on the third shift. One night she awoke around 1:30am needing to use the restroom, so she activated her call light. In quick time one aide came to answer the light. When mom said she needed to use the restroom, that aide had to call for assistance. The other aide did not answer the walkie-talkie. The first aide left a message for the second aide to come to mom’s room when she was available. Finally at 1:55 the second aide came into the room. She didn’t offer any apology or explanation for the delay. She did the bare minimum to help mom and then left, without saying a word!
We need all people, not just staff in skilled nursing centers, to see that Ginott’s words are true. Regardless of your job title, everyone has tremendous power to make other people’s lives miserable or joyous. Knowing this, choosing to make other people miserable sounds like a very selfish and poor choice. Here’s hoping everyone finds their opportunities to make other people’s lives joyous! Remember, this is one of the most important ways to prevent conflict in the workplace.
Dr. Dale Shannon – Director Instructional Design