Morale Matters

Written by on June 1, 2015 in Practice tips - No comments

“I’m not running a day care, they are adults and it is NOT my job to motivate employees!” said the office manager.  Well, the manager is right….to a point.  It may not be written in the office manager’s job description to ‘Motivate Employees’ however, it sure makes for a happier environment when people are enjoying their work.  Having fun at work can be done and in fact, it definitely improves productivity.   It is much smarter to create a positive environment where everyone wins.

GoodMoraleWEBAs Administrator of a surgical practice, where I was employed for 32 years, there was never a dull moment.  I think about the day when the patient walked into the office for a copy of his autopsy report.  It appeared as though he was going to have to wait a while on that report.  We quickly discovered that he needed his biopsy report.  BIG difference!  We never made FUN OF anyone, however we had FUN WITH them.  We knew when and when not to “cut up” and we kept most of them in “stitches” (pun intended).  Patients actually said they enjoyed coming to our office. I remember the little elderly gentleman who rode the bus to our office. He always arrived early so he could show us the most recent pictures of his grandchildren.  You see, we listened to him and cared about him as an individual.  His family lived out of state, he lived alone and he called us his “friends.”

Creating a “HAPPY” atmosphere is easy, but it requires commitment and creativity.  It starts at the top.  If leaders are negative, their negativity will metastasize throughout the group.  This attitude acts as an anchor.  No one wins.    In reality, we do not all awake with a smile on our face each day and without problems in our pockets. Most everyone carries their own backpack of “issues.”   We do, however, have a choice.  We can choose to be a positive influence, turn our attention away from our problems and focus on the needs of others.

As for me, many days I would arrive at my office with a very heavy heart. No one knew.  You see, when I pushed that door open, I closed the door to my problems.  I turned my attention toward helping someone else to a good day and my bad day went away….every time. My actions along with my theme song, “Just Put on a Happy FAKE”, helped toward turning my happy fake into a happy reality each day.

I understood that it was up to ME to MOTIVATE ME. That was MY choice.  To assist in helping others to motivate themselves, I created the following guide since MORALE MATTERS.

M = Motivation begins with ME from within. 
It is MY choice.  I choose to look for the positive in any situation and in doing so, I’ve discovered that POSITIVE is PLENTIFUL!  (You won’t hear that in the news). A little fun game to engage others is to catch someone “in the act” of kindness, slip a little paper heart on their desk without getting caught.  It is then up to them to catch someone else “in the act” of kindness and pass it on, sharing the heart. This is a fun and very simple way of bringing everyone together, focusing on the positive actions of others.  Soon everyone begins to look for the good and is on board toward creating kind and caring acts throughout each day. It’s sort of like a round-up in reverse. By focusing on the beauty within the flowers, we are weeding our garden.

O = Open the lines of communication.
Make sure that everyone is kept informed of changes, new physicians, new procedures, new employees, etc.  While performing practice assessments, employees have shared with me that they were not told that a new physician was joining their practice and patients were calling for appointments after seeing it in the newspaper.  Another group had sent thousands of beautiful flyers out about new procedures, however, they failed to inform their employees. Patients called to inquire and schedule appointments, the staff knew nothing about the procedure. They couldn’t answer any questions or schedule appointments.  When employees are kept informed from the top, it becomes a TEAM. It’s easy to build an email network to announce new additions and any changes so that everyone hears the same message at the same time.  Most likely, they will then jump on board.

R = Respect every person. 
Treat everyone fairly.   I am of the opinion that adults teach children the art of bullying.   The same goes for the workplace.  Leaders sometimes contribute to bullying.  Step up to speak up…whether it is a physician in the hallway or someone from the cleaning crew, each person is important.  I wouldn’t want to spend a day without each one.  Actions of leaders never go unnoticed, therefore we need more leaders who will step up to speak up for what is right.   When people feel they are respected as individuals, their self esteem is improved, which in turn promotes a team atmosphere.  It cost nothing to exchange “hello” with a smile and a kind word….and the dividends are great.  BEWARE: this positive behavior is contagious and you may find yourselves celebrating often!

A = Approachable behavior. 
Employees need to know they can approach you with problems. Now, the right time to share and the length of time spent there is up to you.  After hearing their issues, you may need to say, “I hear what you are saying, let me think about this a bit…and let’s reconnect around 4 today, will that work?”  They now know that you are interested in what they had to say.   You cared.  It is as important that others feel they can share new ideas and suggestions and to feel that their input is important. An “I” box is a fun way to encourage them to share. Ideas can be placed in the box, reviewed before staff meetings, igniting brainstorming and opinions and if the idea is put into action, an incentive (gift certificate) may be given.  After all, who knows best that those who perform the duties.

L = Listen In.
We do not learn while we are talking (note to self here).  When we are talking, we are sharing what we’ve already learned.  When we listen, we learn.  By the way, did you realize that the letters in LISTEN also spell SILENT?  To listen, we must be silent (again, note to self).  Many times I would overhear conversations, perhaps not meant for me to hear, however it would enlighten me of issues I was otherwise unaware of.  I could then do something about those issues.  Take time to LISTEN.   Do you know something special about each person you work with?  Make it a point to find about their hobby, their family, etc.  These are the threads that bind us together as a team.  When leaders take time to listen and truly care about others, we are weaving a tapestry of loyalty.

E = Encourage.
When each and every person on the team feels the support of others around them, including their leaders, they will be more confident in making decisions on their own.  Encourage each person to step up to speak up, leading by example.   By creating an environment where the lines of communication are open, where they know that their opinion matters, where they feel respected, where they are missed when they aren’t there, that each task they perform matters, their suggestions count, their own contribution toward creating a happy work environment matters. Then it’s easy to see just how much MORALE MATTERS.

By Denise Price Thomas

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