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Anticipating the Manager's Needs

It can be a distinct advantage for a busy manager to have employees who seem able to anticipate the boss's every need. Without specific direction, they know what to do, when to do it, and the expected results. If you are one of today's hurried, overextended health care managers, you would likely feel fortunate to have staff who perform exactly as expected with little active guidance.


How does the manager acquire staff able to perform as expected with minimal direction? This comes about in 2 ways: 1 wrong and 1 right.


For a view of the wrong way, consider the newly hired manager who assumed responsibility for 9 employees. Although holding regular staff meetings and occasional one-on-one meetings, this manager never articulated his expectations of the employees. Some of the employees, perhaps apprehensive of the "new broom" inherent in an unknown manager's appointment, were uneasy with their lack of knowledge of the boss's expectations. A few staff, however, seemed not bothered at all. All 9 employees seemed to have little choice but to interpret the manager's behavior as "business as usual," and they continued to perform as they had under the previous manager.


After 6 months on the job, the manager reorganized and replaced 2 employees. Citing a lack of confidence in their output and their general inability to work with him as he required, he demoted them and had them transferred. Until the reassignment actually occurred, the displaced employees had no idea what the manager expected of them or what he thought of their performance or ability.


Seven employees survived simply by working in a way that apparently met the manager's unarticulated expectations. Those not so lucky were doing their jobs as they had always done them, and in 6 months they had not been evaluated, criticized, or corrected in any way. When pushed for a rationale, the manager would say only that he knew the kind of performance he required when he saw it.


More managers than we might at first imagine behave like the manager just described. They provide no expectations. They grow comfortable with those who automatically fit and uncomfortable with those who seem not to fit; those who do not fit are replaced and replaced again as necessary.


Managers who fail to communicate their expectations of employees probably do so for 1 of 2 reasons: They are incapable of communicating their expectations clearly and reasonably, or they believe they should not have to do so. The first suggests ignorance, and the second suggests arrogance; neither is acceptable in one who manages the work of others.


Back to the opening point about anticipation: It probably comes close to every manager's dream to achieve a state in which employees are able to anticipate needs so that the group always operates as a smoothly functioning unit. This state is not achieved, however, by sorting through employees and discarding those who fail to fit the unseen mold. Not only is this process grossly unfair to employees, but also it is wasteful and inefficient.


Common-sense management requires that employees know exactly what is expected of them and how they are seen as performing relative to those expectations. Furthermore, present-day employment law is frequently interpreted to mean that knowledge of performance expectations is a right of employment. A dispute over a termination can take a nasty turn for the organization that has to defend the removal of an employee for failing to meet expectations the employee knew nothing about.


To give the organization their best efforts, your employees need to know your expectations of them. Articulate those expectations clearly, help employees establish and pursue objectives, and provide feedback on performance. Practice employee development conscientiously, and eventually, you will have staff who are usually on the same wavelength as you and who seem to know what you need before you know what you need. However, you do not "develop" employees by expecting them to read your mind, especially if they must do so to survive.


This issue of The Health Care Manager (Issue 35:3, July-September 2016) includes the following articles for the reader's consideration:


* "Palliative Care: A Partnership Across the Continuum of Care" reports on a study undertaken to demonstrate that palliative care programs are more likely in communities with favorable economic factors and higher Medicare populations. Managerial, nursing, and policy implications are explored relative to further use and implementation of palliative care programs.


* "Value-Based Purchasing: The Effect of Hospital Ownership and Size" discusses research undertaken to examine the effects of hospital ownership and size on value-based purchasing scores, using representative samples of randomly selected short-term acute-care hospitals grouped into categories of both ownership and size.


* "Neonatal Intensive Care Nurses Working in an Open Ward: Stress and Work Satisfaction" reports on a study undertaken to explore the factors associated with nurse stress and work satisfaction among nurses practicing in open-ward neonatal intensive care units and examine factors associated with stress and work satisfaction.


* The Case in Health Care Management, "Who's the Boss?" asks the reader to consider the plight of a department manager who is beset with 2 problem areas she perceives as undermining her management authority.


* "The Influence of Hospital Market Competition on Patient Mortality and Total Performance Score" reports on a study undertaken to examine the relationship between the quality of hospital care and hospital competition using the quality-quantity behavioral model of hospital behavior.


* "Management of Stress and Anxiety Among PhD Students During Thesis Writing: A Qualitative Study" reports on a study using a conventional content analysis approach to examining the causes of stress in different segments of the academic cycle and suggests strategies of coping with this phenomenon.


* "Spa-Goers' Repeated Spa Visits and Influential Factors: An Exploratory Study for the UK Spa-Goers" reports on a study undertaken to identify and examine the influential factors driving spa-goers' repeated visits and their practical applications in the health and wellness spa industry.


* "Increasing Registered Nurse Retention Using Mentors in Critical Care Services" addresses the importance of mentorship programs in retaining and easing the transition to practice for new graduate nurses, re-entry nurses, and nurses new to a specialty area, with results suggesting that nurses with mentors are retained at a noticeably higher rate than those not mentored.


* "How Does Supervisor Support Influence Turnover Intent Among Frontline Hospital Workers?: The Mediating Role of Affective Commitment" reports on a study that examined the relationship between supervisor support and turnover intent and assessed the mediating role of affective commitment between supervisor support and intent to turnover.