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What does your staff think about you?

It's no secret that teachers learn a great deal from their students. I certainly have in presenting management seminars, workshops, and graduate courses across the country. There's one recurring theme I have discovered. As we discuss effective management techniques, students invariably remark, "I wish my boss could be here="

Many of you who direct, manage, or supervise labs might be amazed at just how little respect and acceptance your management style commands. Your employees, like so many of my students, may feel resentful and disillusioned when they learn what good management is all about. And their frustration increases if they know that they can't make a difference because their management team is unreceptive to new ideas.

Even undergraduate students in hospital-based medical technology programs are able to assess the lab's management effectiveness by the way they are treated--and many don't like what they see. Again, the people who need to hear this feedback never seem to be part of the audience.

Criticism focuses on a few basic management areas, but all complaints have one point in common: Ineffective managers cannot see that they are doing anything wrong. They operate on the principle of divine right, best summed up as "I'm the boss, and what I say goes?" One technologist's supervisor told her to keep her ideas to herself--if she were smart enough to be a supervisor, she would've been picked for the job.

Laboratory staffs run up against a brick wall in four main areas: employee selection, workplace atmosphere, performance recognition, and communication. Each directly affects morale and productivity. Let's look at some specific examples, every one of them a true story.

* Employee selection methods have been discussed at length, yet many managers are still obsessed with deciding whether a candidate will be able to show up regularly for work. One technologist described a job interview that concentrated on her plans for marriage and motherhood rather than her professional attitude and future work objectives.

Another source of trouble is the lack of clear-cut position descriptions and performance expectations. One workshop participant recalled that when she asked to see a position description, the interviewer snapped, "You'll get a chance to see it after you're hired. All position descriptions remain filed in my office, because they're official hospital documents." The applicant was smart enough to recognize a laboratory she would not want to work for.

* Workplace atmosphere grows directly out of management style and staff morale. For a new employee, that atmosphere is established the first day on the job. Criticism frequently refers to orientation programs or the lack of them.

Here's how one MT student described her introduction to the lab: "I was assigned to hematology, where the education coordinator put me on 7 a.m. rounds with a senior technologist. Then I was turned over to another technologist to learn log-in and processing, which I did for the rest of the day. The next day, the supervisor returned from vacation and sent me to the ICU for rounds. Not one bothered to ask if I had enough phlebotomy experience or told me about the ward's log-in procedure. As a result, some patients were drawn twice."

This education coordinator and supervisor followed the "what not to do" list perfectly. They assumed the newcomer knew the job, overwhelmed her with new information, and left her to unreceptive employees. They also expected immediate perfection. "Through all this," the student said, "I was frustrated, I lost enthusiasm and confidence, and I developed negative attitudes--like a very strong urge to quit!"

This scenario is often enacted when technologists begin a new job. Orientation is one of the most important--and neglected--managerial tasks.

* Performance recognition includes every activity that affects morale and, ultimately, work quality and efficiency. Positive strokes from management are rare in many laboratories. Negative strokes are plentiful. One manager began a quality assurance program with the goal of improving productivity and quality. Just the opposite happened, however, because the manager chose to use the program primarily as a punitive tool. Any errors made, no matter how minor, were written up on the employee's record, and an incident report was placed on file. No opportunity was offered for discussion. Not surprisingly, morale in that lab is at an all-time low.

Recognition of employee contributions is the key to effective management. Yet it seems to be the weakest part of many laboratory management systems.

* Communication is the last big stumbling block, either in how information is imparted or how much. I heard one classic example during a workshop discussion on implementing and monitoring the CAP workload recording method. A participant ask d whether supervisors and technologists should see copies of the monthly CAP reports. Yes, I replied, it was a positive way to involve employees in making it work. But this technologist said her laboratory manager would not show the reports because they were a "management tool" for the director's and manager's eyes only. As a result, employees resented collecting the data, often forgot to log work, and fudged on their reports. That secretive lab manager may have a difficult time explaining productivity problems to administration.

The format of laboratory meetings is another standard source of frustration. It's useless to call a group together and give information without allowing discussion and feedback. I've heard countless examples of impatienfce with employees and retaliation against those who "made waves" by asking questions during meetings.

Every person in your organization needs to feel like part of the whole. If they don't, they will do only enough to get by, and today's laboratory requires more than the minimum. It needs a staff that will put in an extra measure of effort, assured of receiving proper recognition for it.

Set an example for those under your authority. If you have stopped learning and growing, you will be hard put to inspire the best from your employees, no matter how much you pretend to encourage it.

Evaluate your own performance as your employees do--objectively, day by day--and ask yourself now and then what kind of reputation you deserve.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:managing techniques
Author:Barros, Annamarie
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Apr 1, 1985
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