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How care leaders foster respect

April 20, 2010
by Susan D. Gilster and Jennifer L. Dalessandro
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The Staffing Experts discuss the right way to treat employees

Our last column touched on the importance of respect—and the importance of creating a respectful environment for all residents, families, and staff. Creating a respectful environment begins with establishing respect as an expectation for all who live, work, and visit in the facility. Leaders and managers in assisted living and long-term care must be held to this standard as well. So, how does a leader serve to foster a collaborative and collegial atmosphere where everyone is valued and works together?

Most employees—reportedly as high as 80%—leave a job due to disrespectful behavior on the part of a supervisor or manager. Unfortunately, managers do not always follow the golden rule of “treat others as you would want to be treated.”

Just as we in management would not want to be confronted or corrected in public, neither do employees. Supervisors and managers should not scold staff in public. It is never acceptable to ridicule and talk negatively about staff—in any department. If a manager is disrespectful to or unsupportive of other managers or their colleagues, staff too will disregard the need to treat others with respect.

Engaging cooperation on the part of all supervisors and managers will necessitate education by holding separate meetings with supervisors, managers, and administration as a group. This collective group will set the tone and serve as the role models for the staff. You can be sure that the staff is listening and watching those in management positions as an indication of what expectations will be enforced.

Leaders and managers also demonstrate respect by working side by side, supporting each other and the staff when in need. The leadership team should be present and visible, helping and supporting staff whenever staffing is less than desired, when a resident or family are in need of a great deal of staff time, and when there is an unexpected or traumatic experience at the community. Leaders and managers who learn this early on, and those who continue to be willing to “get their hands dirty” will gain the greatest respect from staff, who will remember their willingness to help and subsequently will remain dedicated and loyal. An effective leader will never ask anyone to do something they are unwilling to do themselves.

Collaborating with others and soliciting input are excellent ways in which you demonstrate respect to staff. Employee forums, conducted with all staff, are an opportunity to discuss concerns, initiatives, solve problems, plan new programs, and develop new policies or procedures. They serve as not only a mechanism for communication, but an opportunity to show your respect for their input and opinion on issues of importance. By holding these forums on all shifts—not just during “office hours—leadership further demonstrates that the personal lives of staff are to be respected and valued as well.

When respect is foundational in an organization, it serves to foster a collaborative, collegial atmosphere where everyone values and works together to accomplish the goals, mission, and vision of the organization. It is a caring and nurturing approach where all employees, and those they serve, appreciate and celebrate the relationships that grow and evolve as people genuinely care for one another. And it is fun; there are incredible people working in assisted living and long-term care who work hard and desire collegial and friendly relationships. Open the door, learn who they are, treat them like you want to be treated—and the rewards will be far more valuable to you than anything you can imagine.

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In other words, do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God