Thursday, March 12, 2015

3 Ways to work with a bivalent manager

If you are going to succeed as a hospice Chaplain, you are going to have to work effectively with a Team Manager. It is as simple as that. My experience and observation about how a Team Manager accepts a Chaplain is this… In most cases, the TM will give the Chaplain the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of the relationship. That is a window you, the Chaplain, can use to your great advantage as you begin to establish your work with patients and families and the IDT staff. Your energy, positive outlook, winsomeness, and skill will keep you in good stead with your TM. If you are out of compliance with your visits, late to meetings, scattered with your schedule, make excuses, and do a shabby job you will have trouble. Every once in a while you will come across a bivalent manager. What is that? Sounds scary. I assure you, it is. A real life example will serve to explain… I once worked for a TM who ruled the Team with an iron fist. Hers was always the final word on everything. It was literally her way or the highway. When I came to her Team, I observed how she worked and what she expected (demanded) from the various disciplines in the IDT. There was a new initiative in the organization to upgrade from paper charting to electronic charting. I threw myself into gaining insight and understanding about how to use the program presented to us efficiently and effectively. I did grasp the logic behind the program when it came to the spiritual care elements. The IT Team made me a trainer for the Chaplains. This made my TM very happy. I was able to meet all of my obligations to patients and families, attend all meetings on time (it was her time, not Standard or Daylight Savings Time), and maintain a positive attitude. Those who challenged her lost... their jobs. I recall one episode that has remained emblazoned in my mind. As part of each meeting she would bring us up to speed on hospice news and any other announcements. Well, she had an announcement to make and that was that non-Clinical people were never to give medical advice to patients. That made sense to me as I would not consider doing so, but apparently, there were some on the Team that crossed that boundary. The announcement was stated matter-of-factly with no sense of intense emotion. A couple of weeks later, the atom bomb went off. It seems the non-Clinical person(s) did not heed her warning. It was evident that she was upset when she walked into the room. The normal opening to the meeting was put aside. As she was standing at the head of the conference table she leaned forward and slammed her hand on the table and in a growling voice stated that whoever gives medical advice again would be fired on the spot. Wow! What an introduction to a hospice TM! Through my time on that Team I learned from others that that was her manner. She not only acted that way in Team, but in her relationships with others in the office. When other Managers saw her coming they expected a confrontation of some sort. In meetings, she would give scathing comments about those on her Team that were not meeting her expectations. Her world was good or bad, friends or enemies, negative or positive, hero or villain, believers and non-believers, life and death, fantasy and reality, and so on.* (*Harvard Business Review, March 10, 2015; How to Manage Someone Who Can’t Handle Ambiguity, Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries). de Vries, Distinguished Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change at INSEAD, works to coach such bivalent leaders. I will leave the coaching up to him, but will give 3 simple ways to work with a bivalent manager: 1. Do your work with excellence. That is all this manager wants. 2. Solve her problems before they become a problem. Managers deal with people problems all day long. They know who will have problems and why. Be efficient. Learn your job and the nuances of it. Do not be scattered or appear to be the weak link. 3. Become her go-to person in some aspect of the Team. If it with the computer program, know it thoroughly. If it is with patient needs, be able to speak with certainty about that patient. Whatever is happening on the Team, be the one she feels comfortable speaking with. Those are simple, but they work. To this day, that manager speaks well of me. To this day, she speaks ill of those who did not meet her expectations and demands. So, Chaplain Colleagues, if you work for a bivalent manager allow the experience to grow you. You will be better for the experience.

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