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Don't neglect your gold-medal workers.

THE OTHER DAY I sat in my office struggling with the next month's schedule. Once again I would be forced to post the familiar list of uncovered shifts and ask for volunteers to work overtime.

When I entered the field 15 years ago, the supply of medical technologists more than met the demand. The quality of applicants was exceptional; competition was tough; job openings were rare. We all know what's happened to that story.

In the past year I have witnessed mounting strain on the faces of my overworked employees as we all strive to comply with a mountain of Federal regulations and corporate restructuring. Meanwhile they must meet daily demands from physicians--all while working under the pressures of a skeleton crew, and in the context of an uncertain professional future.

As I struggled with my monthly schedule, I paused to look out over the lab, observing the staff's camaraderie and listening to their laughter. It was then that I spotted the core group of people who I knew could and would get us through the busy months ahead.

* Identify the best. There is always a small segment of exceptional employees who rise above the rest of the crowd. They are the individuals who will work overtime on the midnight shift, pull a double shift when a technologist calls in sick on the weekend, and stay late in order to help the next shift when the computer crashes. They work hard to meet deadlines and keep the quality control and maintenance logs up to snuff. They update their procedure manuals at home in their spare time and resolve their own problems. These super-achievers are the steel backbone--the department stabilizers--the ones a manager can count on to pull the department through a crisis.

What unique inner strengths do these workers possess? What motivates them? What burns them out? Seeking answers, I roamed the hospital corridors, asking top-flight supervisors and employees about this. What they said confirmed by own beliefs.

These valuable professionals observed that the strengths of gold-medal employees lie in character, ethics, and honor. They openly and enthusiastically express loyalty to their employers. They are perfectionist who set extremely high standards for themselves and take great pride in job well done. They are intelligent, strong-willed, and self-motivated.

* Show appreciation. Outstanding workers are driven by inner forces. What motivates them is a firm belief in the value of their work as they see it. We must not forget, however, that they rely on management to provide the following:

* Genuine appreciation for good work--even if it's expressed as a simple "thank you."

* Recognition of extra effort put forth to complete a difficult task.

* Involvement as a vital team player.

* Respect for their general knowledge, expertise, and problem-solving abilities.

* Support whenever tough or controversial decisions must be made.

* A professional environment that promotes a powerful work ethic.

When these motivators are not prevalent in the workplace, super-achievers tend to burn out more easily. Their motivation wanes when they see no relief in sight to heavy workloads, short staffing, low wages, long hours. Burned out super-achievers quit--and when they do, employers lose a priceless resource.

As laboratory managers and supervisors, we cannot afford to let our best workers fade away. Make the time to acknowledge your exceptional employees and keep their gold medals shining bright.

The author is laboratory director, Humana Hospital Northside, St. Petersburg, Fla., and adjunct professor, University of South Florida, Tampa.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:motivating excellent medical laboratory employees
Author:Hendrix, Bonnie B.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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