I was talking to my friend the other night. He recently became the Director of a long-term care facility. He was discussing his decision-making capabilities. My friend told me that he wanted to be “fair and consistent”.
When my friend had to make a decision or put a new policy into practice, it usually involved many of his staff members. He wanted his actions to be fair. He wanted his decisions to result in similar actions and thus affect his staff in similar ways
My friend also wanted his actions to be consistent. They had to be in accordance with any rules that already existed.
He didn’t care if his staff liked him or his decision-making abilities. He didn’t care if his staff liked the actions which resulted from his decision-making. In fact, he expected some members of his staff not to like these things. But he didn’t care. As long as he was fair and consistent, he was satisfied.
Planning To Be Liked
I thought about my friend’s decision-making capabilities and I’m baffled by this. Why is this an either/or? It was always the case that a person had to choose between the two concepts. They could be fair and consistent or they could be liked. But they couldn’t be both! Why was that?
In one of my many hospitals, I worked for a boss who was both. She was fair and consistent, but she was also liked by her staff. My boss regularly went to lunch and dinner with staff members. She got to know them (as they got to know her). Everyone traded stories with one another. My boss learned about their families. She even exchanged photos of kids and grandchildren.
My boss also bought donuts and made food for all three shifts— especially the night shift staff, who were often forgotten! She celebrated staff birthdays each month. She created bulletin boards with pictures of the staff. She thanked people even when they performed the smallest task.
There were times when my boss did have to make an unpopular decision that impacted the staff. However, my boss was well-liked. Thus, even when these decisions didn’t fit into the fair and consistent category, the staff was more understanding and accepting of these decisions.
Delegating Tasks To Others
Another one of my bosses had a different philosophy when it came to decision-making. He liked to delegate. Furthermore, once he delegated a task, that person (who was the recipient of the delegating) assumed all the responsibility for completing the task. In addition, the recipient was now in charge.
The recipient now became the point person. They were the sole decision maker of the project. My boss had transferred his power to the recipient. If anyone had any suggestions or if there were decisions to be made, it was now the recipient who assumed the decision-making role.
I loved this role. As for my boss, he constantly welcomed it. He was very pleased to transfer the power (and the headaches) to someone else. This was a win-win situation for both of us. My boss got a quality project that was organized and run to his liking. I dealt with all the details and the aggravation. But the decision-making was all mine. When others (or even my boss) had suggestions or ideas, they had to get my approval since I was now the lead person.
My boss always knew his place. He never overstepped my new authority— because he knew that if he did that I would step down immediately. Then, he would be stuck running the project with all the aggravation that came with it.
Establishing Uniform Rules
It’s fair to say that there was no love lost between the Human Resources department and me. Maybe it was because I didn’t like the Human Resources manager. From an organizational chart point of view, both the Human Resources manager and I were mid-level departmental managers of our respective departments. Thus we were on the same level. Yet, the Human Resources manager always acted as if she was superior to me. In fact, sometimes, she acted like she was my boss.
I also had several issues with some of the Human Resources practices and procedures which they established. My hospital was made up of many different departments (nursing, pharmacy, x-ray, lab, dietary, etc.). It was often very difficult to devise a uniform rule that applied to all departments.
I further noticed that many of the practices that Human Resources developed, didn’t apply to my pharmacy department. I sometimes had to adjust these policies to make them fit my pharmacy department. I always tried to follow or implement these Human Resources procedures, but it wasn’t so easy at times.
One of the strangest rules that Human Resources had implemented was that they did not address written letters from staff members from other departments. So Human Resources would only respond to emails or phone calls detailing problems or complaints they got from other departmental staff members. But no issues were received via letter form.
I never understood the logic of this practice. Did it take more time to answer an email or phone call than a letter? I didn’t think so. I just thought Human Resources didn’t want to address any correspondence received. Thus the Director of Human Resources always claimed that the Human Resources department did not respond to letters that they received.
Devising Departmental Rules
Quite often a director devised rules or procedures that they thought were being followed but weren’t. When this happened and it was discovered, both sides looked foolish.
I remembered when this would occur. It usually happened during Joint Commission or Department of Health inspections. In these cases, the director informed the inspector about a rule or procedure his staff followed.
However, this was not the case. Upon further investigation, the inspector discovered that the department’s staff was not aware of this rule or practice that the Director claimed to be in existence. This often resulted in a very embarrassing conflict for both parties. The Director stated that a particular practice was being followed, while the staff was unaware that this practice even existed.
Battling With Human Resources
It was an intense meeting that my boss and I were attending. Some of my staff members had complained about how I did the scheduling. They contacted Human Resources and complained. The Human Resources manager called a meeting with herself, the Director of Human Resources, my boss, and me.
The Human Resources manager began the meeting. She talked about how several of my staff members were upset with my scheduling procedures. She spoke for ten minutes. When she finished, I turned to the Director of Human Resources.
“Is it your practice to respond to letters from staff people that complain about certain issues?” I asked.
“No,” she stated, “We don’t respond to letters.”
I turned to the Human Resources manager and said, “Did you respond to a letter from my staff complaining about how I do the scheduling?”
She was very quiet at first. She was trapped and she knew it. Finally, she replied, “Yes.”
I looked at the Director of Human Resources. Then, I swiveled around and looked at the Human Resources manager.
“What we have here is a definite conflict,” I said, “She says ‘no’. She says ‘yes’. It seems to me that you guys practice the Almond Joy Theory when it comes to letters.” Everyone was confused and caught by surprise by my comments.
I continued, “You know what the Almond Joy Theory is, don’t you? ‘Sometimes you feel like addressing letters. Sometimes you don’t.’”
I could almost feel the heat of anger rising in the room. The Director of Human Resources and the Human Resource Manager were embarrassed and very upset, to say the least. My boss was trying to stifle a smile. The two Human Resources people rose and stormed out of the room. As they were leaving I hummed the Almond Joy jingle.
Needless to say, things were never the same between Human Resources and me. They avoided me whenever they could. I tried not to come in contact with them whenever I could. However, there were a few times that our paths did cross. There were many times when I didn’t agree with what Human Resources was doing (even if it didn’t directly affect the pharmacy or me). During these moments, I would silently hum the Almond Joy jingle. No one else could hear my humming but the Human Resources manager knew what was happening.
Daniel Shifrin, R.P., M.S. is a recently retired pharmacist who enjoys sharing his insights about hospital pharmacy. He is proud to own one of the largest collections of Pharmacy Stamp First Day Covers.