As I put my grandson in the car to go home after a weekend full of fun, he turned to me and began crying in protest, because even though we had talked about what was going to happen, it was still a surprise.
Our work life can be full of unpleasant surprises, too. Those surprises can lead to conflict with others and within ourselves, and create a negative work environment.
Bad News Bears
This was the case for my client Natalie, who I met through some volunteer work we do together. She directs a state-of-the-art senior living community. She had been asked to share with her staff a decision made by the managing company that reduced the work hours and the amount of breaks given to the nursing staff. The decision, a surprise, was one Natalie felt was detrimental to the community, but she was unable to change the decision.
Uproar in The Troops
A week after the news, the nursing staff was still in an uproar. They were focused on what was going to happen rather than patient care. Residents and families complained, and the managing company put pressure on her to “fix” everything. By the end of the week when it was obvious the decision would not be reversed, four nurses had quit, effective immediately. Natalie was left short-staffed, without support, and the families of the residents were complaining loudly. She called me to help.
Help Is Here
Here is what we did to overcome the stress of the negative environment:
Zero in on the priorities. When we are in a negative environment, there is a tendency to focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s important. After making a plan together for what needed to be done to move through the situation, Natalie had a clear path for her next moves. This helped her to keep focusing forward.
Reframe the “story” to find the opportunities. When surprises happen, we tell ourselves a story – make an interpretation – about what is happening. Based on that story, we decide how to feel. Natalie’s story was that the managing company didn’t value the work that the nurses were doing and just wanted to save on benefits. She was feeling disappointed, frustrated, and helpless. These emotions were leading her to react in ways that were causing even more disharmony with the staff. When she realized, through our coaching, that she was reacting to this story, she was able to set it aside and begin looking for ways to support the staff and residents.
Spend 80% of your time focusing on the solution. Once Natalie realized the story she was telling herself and reframed that story, she was able to focus on solutions to the problem. She supported the nurses who left with referrals to other nursing positions in the area, reworked the schedule to ensure quality care continued for the residents - in what turned out to be a much more efficient way, and made sure each person on staff received a daily note about something she noticed in their work that helped move their mission forward.
Happily Ever After
Natalie was so successful in overcoming this surprise that today she is district manager of a group of senior living communities managed by the same company. She is regularly consulted in the company about how to meet challenges within the communities and in the company overall. Her ability to prioritize and create goodwill among staff and families is renowned within the company, and she regularly speaks at company retreats on new initiatives.
If you'd like to learn more about turning negativity in your workplace to profitability, contact me today!