I recently wrote an article about the 10 things leaders needed to know about their employees. This article generated a lot of conversation on social media, which in my opinion, is because of the wide disconnect between employees and their leadership team. Many employees blame their leaders for their stressful work environment and think their leaders COULD do more to make it better but don’t for many different reasons. They wish their leaders would remember what it’s like to care for patients 24/7.
However, the disconnect goes both ways. Employees need to understand what it’s like to be a leader who is responsible for patients and employees 24/7. The truth is it’s not any easier on their side of things.
I was once a unit manager on a large Medical Surgical unit. I was new to the organization and new to leadership. What I didn’t know before accepting the position was that the unit didn’t have a good reputation. They couldn’t seem to keep managers on that unit for more than a year. When I found out, I was bound and determined to succeed and turn that unit around!
Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.
Disruptive behaviors were the norm, lack of teamwork was palpable, and general lack of concern for patient care plagued the unit. I resigned 14 months later. I tried my best, came in early, stayed late, came in on the weekend to help out, but despite how many extra hours I put in at work and at home, I was not successful.
One day, I decided to leave “early” at 3pm because my daughter had a band concert, which I missed the last time because of a crisis at work. One of my nurses said out loud, “Boy. Must be nice leaving early while the rest of us have to stay and work.” It was all I could do NOT to strangle her! She had no idea that my leaving “early” was not early at all. I had already put in well over 50 hours that week (it was only Thursday) and was feeling guilty about choosing work over my kids.
She had no idea what my life as her leader was like. There was no “nice” about it.
Outwardly, employees may think their managers just sit in their office checking emails all day or chatting in meetings trying to discover new ways to make it harder for their employees. When they see their manager leaving “early” it might feel that it’s not fair. But trust me, there are so many demands placed on managers beyond what employees see. This is why I wanted to take the opportunity to give employees a glimpse into the life of their managers.
The following are 10 things managers want their employees to know about them.
1. They Make Mistakes
Sometimes they don’t make good decisions but may be afraid to admit it to their employees for fear of criticism or loss of trust. However, just because they are in a leadership role doesn’t mean that they are immune to mistakes. Go easy on them and let them know that it’s okay.
2. They Don’t Have all of the Answers & Need YOUR Input too
I asked other leaders what they want their employees to know. Dr. Michael Grossman, a good friend and amazing leader shared this: “Your leaders can’t solve everything without your input. They know you’re busy, but don’t tell them to fix it, and then sit back and complain that they didn’t fix it the way you wanted, and then complain that they can’t help because they’re still too busy.”
3. What They WANT to Do Isn’t Always What They CAN Do.
Every leader has a wish list of things they want for their unit and for their staff – better equipment, more budgeted positions, less paperwork, etc. You may not know how hard they try to advocate for you. However, sometimes their hands are tied. I knew staffing was bad. I wanted to add more positions but was limited by what the organization allowed despite my numerous attempts.
4. Their Biggest Stressor is When They Have to Discipline You
Despite what some employees think, leaders HATE counseling or disciplining their employees. A recent study by Nursing Management reported that the number one stressor for managers is when they have to discipline their employees. In fact, disciplining employees for performance issues or behavior can be so stressful for managers that many just choose to ignore it all together.
5. They Feel Fatigue and Burnout Too
Leaders are constantly bombarded with pressures that employees are not aware of. They are held accountable for quality scores, retention, patient satisfaction, managing the budget, payroll, etc. The constant struggle to meet organizational expectations can lead to leadership burnout too.
6. They Truly Care About You!
They care about your well being, your personal and professional development, and your happiness! They think about you when they’re home; worry about you when you’re sad or frustrated and pray for you when you’re struggling. Even though they may get angry or frustrated with you, they care about you as a human being beyond the workplace.
7. They Have a Life Too
One of the biggest complaints managers voice is that they are never truly off work. They complain that their employees don’t hesitate to contact them at home for every single issue, even for minor ones. I had a nurse who paged me at 2 A.M. to ask if she could have a day off for the FOLLOWING month. Really??? Every phone call you make to your manager when he/she is at home, takes them away from their family, friends, and their sleep! Please think before you call.
8. They Are Tired of Everyone Complaining
I don’t know one manager who has gone an entire day without one of their employees complaining about something. It’s not that they don’t want you to voice concerns, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the constant negative chatter about how bad things are (even when they’re not).
9. They Are Proud When You Do Well & Disappointed When You Don’t
The manager role is somewhat like the role of a parent. They feel like the proud parent when you get certified, obtain your advanced degree, or when you step up as charge nurse or council chair. But likewise, when they have to chase you to complete your competencies, beg you to participate beyond “swiping in and out” or have to counsel you about your behavior, they are overwhelmingly disappointed.
10. They Love to Brag About You
A recent study by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reported that what brings managers the most joy is when someone compliments their employees. They LOVE to brag about how awesome you are! It’s the one thing that keeps leaders in their role – watching their employees grow and succeed.
The disconnect between employees and leaders doesn’t have to exist if we each gained a healthy dose of perspective and took the time to understand what it’s like to walk in each other’s shoes. As the late Jim Rohn said,
“All of us need to recognize how valuable each of us are. And each of us needs to recognize how valuable we all are.”
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to be that director again. I would have done so many things differently. I know I can’t turn back the clock, but I can learn from that experience to help me be a better leader now to my amazing team at The Healthy Workforce Institute.
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Be kind. Take care. Stay connected.
Helping you cultivate a healthy happy workforce,