Balancing Act Managing Emotions between Work and Home
Your car needs new tires, you left for work after arguing with your teenage daughter about her appearance, and your husband has informed you he may be facing a job lay-off. You are expected to walk through the office door and forget all of that to perform your normal level of proficiency and care. You remember the office mantra that is common in many dental practices, “Leave your personal problems at the door”, and prepare to put on a happy face and get through the day. How can that happen? Can we delve into our work without distraction? Is it possible to put aside serious emotional situations that arise in our personal lives?
Let’s face it – It can’t happen. The door to the office is not a magic portal that, upon entering, temporarily erases our memory of what is going on in our personal life. It is how we balance the importance of both. Commitment to the workplace does not require lack of commitment to the home place. In order to respect the importance of focusing on patient care during the work day, interest and empathy for personal situations must be demonstrated. This can be done without abusing office time or ignoring the lives of the Team beyond office hours.
Team members spend many hours together, insuring the care of the patients, the effectiveness of office systems. Good teams learn about each other, sharing life stories. Together, they celebrate birthdays, holidays and practice success. Good teams care about each other and their combined efforts that contribute to practice success. When one team member is having a “bad day”, either at work or home, it affects the team and potentially practice productivity.
It can happen to anyone on the Team. Everyone has personal lives and they may not always go smoothly. There may come a time for every team member during their time at work that they may need an understanding ear.
You can’t make the reason for the bad day go away, but you can make it worse by ignoring it or asking the team member going through it to put it aside as unimportant.
By allowing the team member to have a few moments in the morning huddle to share their problem with someone so it is acknowledged is a first step in getting that team member back on board for the rest of the day. Without betraying confidentiality or intimate personal information, the Team can spend a few moments rallying around their colleague who needs the nurturing. The day will go a lot smoother for everyone.
The team member will have a better day knowing he or she is cared for by team members.
As a co-worker, this consolation may be offered, “I am sorry you are having a rough time. I can’t imagine what it must be like for you. What can I do to help you at work today?” By acknowledging the employee’s problem and offering support during the work day, you are helping the employee gain focus on the work. Employees need to know that they are cared for. Allow them to have their personal moments, in the privacy of the team and away from patient care. You will build loyalty and commitment and have a stronger employee for it. Just be careful that this time does not become excessive and start to abuse patient care or break down teamwork.
The doctor should find the balance between caring and over caring. Becoming too involved in each employee’s personal problems could be misleading. Doctor’s intentions should never leave room for doubt that his concerns are for a co-worker and he or she is acting as a concerned professional only.
A lot of our time is spent at work. It would stand to reason that team members learn to depend on each other for help with personal problems. But, it needs to be handled in such a way that it doesn’t consume the day with drama and trauma. The team encircles around the person who needs support for a short period of time, until they can move back into the outer circle. One person cannot stay inside the circle consistently or for extended periods of time. This employee becomes ineffective and debilitates the team.
Let’s be honest. We can sympathize and empathize – to a point. When it becomes a constant requirement for one team member, it becomes weary. It weakens team effectiveness and eventually hurts the practice. Client care falls below the mark when personal lives take center stage.
Consider this: You go to the hair salon, anticipating the attention you will receive. As you wait to be served, you hear a conversation between two stylists about a personal problem. During your visit, this personal issue becomes to focal point of your time at the salon. How did it make you feel? Did you receive the personal attention you expected? Did you feel you were well served or was your service compromised as a result of the personal problem?
Conversations with patients should not be about personal problems. The focus of the workday is about patient care. Attention needs to be focused on the patients Conversation is directed to the patient, about the patient. If personal problems are getting in the way of practice productivity, a warning may be necessary. If a particular employee’s personal problems overpower daily work intention for long periods, it may be time to make a team change.
Putting effort into the day can act as a temporary diversion to the personal matters at hand. Serving patients well and completing a good day at work can make us feel good about ourselves. Following the golden rule, “Do for others what you would want others to do for you” is a helpful standard for office protocol. Give the client the care and attention you would expect and deserve.
One of the ways to measure success in the practice is team satisfaction. When the team is satisfied, they are creative, enthusiastic and productive. One of the ways to be certain team members are satisfied is providing an environment that makes them feel cared for.
This means allowing the team to acknowledge personal problems without them overpowering the practice.
Leave your personal problems at the door? No, but learn to prioritize the workday to keep the attention on personal problems to a minimum and the focus on patient care maximized.