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Keeping the troops happy.

Keeping the troops happy

Most of us spend approximately one-third of our adult lives in the act of earning a living. From our early 20s to our mid-60s or beyond, we spend the bulk of our waking hours working. Some of us gain total satisfaction from a full day at work, while others loathe every minute.

How well we perform our jobs is closely tied to how much we enjoy them. The adage "a happy worker is a productive worker" may seem trite, yet it's usually true. Everyone has bad days, but certain malcontents simply hate to come to work. Worse, they freely convey that attitude to their colleagues. * Changing times. Although we have no control over the larger issues outside the laboratory that negatively affect our staff members - from the weather to Federal reimbursement polocies - we can take certain steps to make their eight hours at work as pleasant as possible.

In the past, laboratory managers didn't have to concern themselves greatly with maintaining staff morale. The workload was steady, professionalism was intact, and job satisfaction was high. In recent years, however, increased reliance on automation, demands to heighten productivity, and the personnel shortage have changed the way laboratorians feel about their jobs. That's where managers come in. * Wearing a new hat. Since salary and benefit programs vary little from one place to another, lab managers often find themselves losing staff for reasons unrelated to economics, such as working conditions and staff attitudes. This change has forced us to expand our role to include the title of chief morale officer.

Many creative means are at our disposal to make the laboratory a place people want to be. It is up to us as managers to make good use of them.

[Paragraph]Lab week. National Medical Laboratory Week is an excellent opportunity for the entire hospital staff to recognize the role played by laboratorians in providing total health care. The importance of this celebration to lab morale grows each year.

[Paragraph]Rewards. Make a point of recognizing employees who put forth an exemplary effort. All of us have policies and procedures for dealing with problem employees; how many have a standard policy for rewarding outstanding ones?

[Paragraph]Credit. Recognize an employee of the month. Give an award for outstanding attendance. Do something as simple as acknowledging a staff member's birthday or employment anniversary. These extra measures can go a long way toward building a positive attitude.

Holiday parties, laboratory outings, and other activities held outside the workplace help employees get to know one another while building a more cohesive work force.

[Paragraph]Inform. Communication is a vital element in maintaining good staff relations. A department newsletter or roundtable discussion will disseminate information, short-circuit the rumor mill, and improve morale.

* Dissatisfiers. Eliminate aspects of the work environment that are easy to ignore when they work correctly but have a negative impact when they don't. Climate control, noise levels, and housekeeping habits fall into this category.

You rarely hear about a dissatisfier until it happens. No one has ever come up to me, for example, and exclaimed, "Gee, it's comfortable in here." I have fielded plenty of complaints, however, when the lab was too hot or too cold.

Fortunately, the job of morale officer is one we needn't perform alone. Each laboratory staff usually adept individuals who are glad to contribute their time and talents toward making the lab a more pleasant place to work.

Assume the role of morale officer and cheer up the troops. If you do it right, you'll find it one of your more rewarding duties and one that will keep your troops glad to remain on base.

James M. Maratea The author is administrator of clinical laboratories at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia.
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Author:Maratea, James M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Previous Article:What lab managers earned in 1990.
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