Archive for September, 2006

The Long Goodbye

September 20, 2006

When an employee announces his or her departure, the decision to leave is made months and years before the actual resignation occurs. Because health care is a small world, the departing employee will usually say that the resignation is due to family, pay or opportunity. The real reason for the departure is more than likely tied to some event or action which occurred months or even years ago. Usually it’s something that a leader either missed or saw as inconsequential at the time.

People work in health care primarily because they enjoy the work relationships and have a strong desire to do their job well. Thus when leaving a job, the person knows that they’ll have to develop new relationships and will experience those difficult feelings of not being at one’s best as they become acclimated to their new job.

So why do people leave? Besides the often stated reasons such as family, pay, or opportunity, the most likely reasons are a lack of relationship with their supervisor, systems that are frustrating, not having the tools to do their job, lack of development or training, working with low performers who are not being dealt with and a lack of appreciation. The story below is an example of when that loyalty knot gets loosened.

Not long ago, I ran into a nurse while grocery shopping with my wife. The nurse was disappointed with her current employer. Why? She had applied for a nursing instructor position at her hospital. Someone else got the job.

That hurt, but what hurt even more was the lack of respect she felt because of the way the communication was handled – or, to point more accurately, how communication did not happen. It wasn’t until she read the announcement on the staff bulletin board that she learned she didn’t get the job.

Her comment to me was “I’ve worked there for years and they didn’t even have enough respect for me to call and explain that I wasn’t chosen or why.” Will she walk out right away? No, she is too professional. Will she leave tomorrow? No, again she doesn’t want to leave her teammates and patients in a bind.

Will she return calls from another organization if called? Yes. Will she look online for openings at other organizations? Most likely. Will she leave? Yes, if something doesn’t happen to retighten her loyalty.

So how does a leader become aware of such disconnects and either prevent them or intervene sooner? Here are two possible ways:

  1. Hardwire communication to people not selected for positions. Make clear what are the next steps of the interview process, particularly when the decision will be made and how people will be notified.
  2. Consistent rounding on staff. In the story above, I feel if the manager had rounded on this person with some basic questions, the leader would have been aware of this situation. If an employee quits and the leader is surprised there are two issues – the employee quitting and the leader being unaware of the employee’s feelings.

We at SG have a national lab of leaders dedicated to making health care better. Please let us know:

  1. Any success you are having with staying close to staff that you feel is improving outcomes through increased retention of staff, creating more efficiency, etc.
  2. Do you have a story of something you did and didn’t seem to have an impact at time but found out later it did?

A new leader told me that he once asked a nurse how she was doing. The nurse mentioned a particular supply need on the unit. The leader followed up and got the supplies.A few weeks later the leader was walking through the unit and saw the same nurse. The nurse told the leader that when she mentioned supplies, she had written her resignation letter and planned on turning it in that day. However, she had decided to wait just to see how the leader handled her request. She then thanked the leader for being so responsive and said she was staying. Never under estimate the impact of such actions.

Love to hear your comments on this and your own life’s lessons.

Thanks, Quint