“10 Things We Wish You Knew!”
What staff nurses and managers should understand about each other
I launched the Healthy Workforce Institute to help organizations navigate bullying and incivility concerns. In my role, I regularly talk to a lot of nurses and nurse leaders. Those conversations reveal that mutual understanding between staff and leadership is often lacking.
There are many recurring themes. For instance, I often hear from nurses who feel their leaders have forgotten what it’s like to be on the front lines.
I once spoke with a new nurse who was devastated to learn, after seven months on her first job, that her manager didn’t recognize her name when the department educator mentioned it. Talk about a sure way to make staff feel unappreciated!
On the other hand, many nurse leaders feel that their employees don’t understand that their leaders face burnout too. When I was a frontline manager, I remember how often my pager would go off — during dinner, during my daughter’s softball games, on weekends, while I was on vacation — over trivial issues that could easily have waited until I got to work the next day. It was frustrating for me as a manager.
Strong, cohesive teams require that both employees and leaders understand each other’s perspectives and needs. This article presents 10 things working nurses want their leaders to know, and 10 things nurse leaders wish their employees better understood about them.
Nurse Managers and Leaders: Here are 10 things your employees wish you knew about them.
1. They often act differently when you’re not around.
The way staff nurses behave when the boss is looking can be very different from how they act on your days off. For example, when I was a staff nurse, everyone did bedside report during the week when the manager was there, but on the weekend, almost nobody bothered. The solution is to treat your employees as colleagues rather than subordinates, so they aren’t so dependent on you to motivate them and keep them on track.
2. They want feedback now.
Your employees want to hear from you about how they are doing now, not just during their annual performance reviews. Delivering feedback effectively takes practice — I spend a lot of time helping leaders develop the necessary skills — but doing it regularly makes it easier to correct problems as they occur.
3. They want you to reward the positive and coach — not criticize — the negative.
If your nurses meet or exceed your expectations, make sure you show your appreciation. If they fall short, say so, but make it constructive, and keep an eye out for things YOU may need to fix (like unclear directions that need to be clarified). Approach your staff as a coach would: supportively, with the goal of helping the team grow and improve.
4. When you criticize one of them in front of others, it makes everyone uncomfortable.
Can you believe that I still sometimes hear that nurse leaders are yelling at and openly criticizing their employees in front of others? If you’re prone to doing that, stop it! Airing your displeasure in front of others shifts the focus from constructive criticism to public humiliation, which is uncomfortable to experience and to witness. It also destroys trust, undermining both your staff’s trust in you and their confidence in each other.