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Coping With Personalities and Politics

One healthcare manager, a professional caregiver who made a successful transition to administration, stated that she first began to deal successfully with the frustrations of the management role and cope with the seemingly endless politics of human interaction when she finally accepted the fact that the frustrations wrought by personalities and politics are natural features of life in work organizations. We may be unwilling to acknowledge such forces-"We shouldn't have to tiptoe around egos or play politics to get the job done"-but recognizing that these are real and must be addressed makes us that much more able to fulfill the management role.


You can perhaps start dealing with the frustrations of your role by recognizing your position for what it really is. Try to view the organization's functioning from perspectives other than your own and especially from the perspective of your immediate superior, the person to whom you report directly.


You will likely see your manager as a single point of contact for you in many respects and certainly as your strongest connection with the upper management hierarchy. You rightly view your manager as a primary source of answers, instructions, assistance, and guidance. There is every reason for you to view your relationship with your manager as a one-to-one, single connection, through which your immediate needs may be filled with little or no interference or delay.


The view from your manager's perspective is likely to be considerably different from your view. Where you see one point of contact, your manager sees several such points; the boss sees as many such points as he or she has direct reporting subordinates. There are also differences in how these points of contact are likely to be viewed. You may see your manager's role in the relationship as positive, a source of guidance. However, the boss may, at least at times, see you and your peers as sources of problems. In brief, the upward view reveals one source of help whereas your manager's downward view reveals multiple sources of potential grief.


It is necessary to appreciate that there is far more to your relationship with your manager than may meet the eye. Because your manager has several channels of contact to contend with, each channel must be served in its own good time. The priority for serving your channel and giving you the attention you desire is the boss's priority rather than yours. Thus, you sometimes may feel that you are being ignored or that matters are moving too slowly while your manager may be proceeding with an appropriate sense of priority as determined from his or her point of view. An appreciation of the boss's position is essential if you are to develop a realistic view of what actually is relative to what you feel should be.


Despite the generally negative connotation attached to the term, politics is a fact of organizational life whether in health care or elsewhere. People have unique personalities, and all are motivated by different mixes of needs. All have somewhat different styles. Politics in the work organization amounts to no more than people, working singly or collectively, being themselves, and pursuing fulfillment in the own ways while attempting to discharge their organizational responsibilities as best they can. If everyone thought and acted the same way, there would be very little politics in work. However, people are all different from each other; some are courageous and some are timid, some are energetic and some are lazy, some are straightforward and some are manipulative, some are generous and some are selfish, and so on. As long as there are differences in people, there will be differences in behavior.


To cope with hierarchical frustrations and the politics of organizational life, keep in mind the following:


* When impatient with the time it takes to get things done, remember that the actions of the hierarchy generally require more time than the actions of the individual. Understand that delay also results from the joint consideration of legitimate multiple interests.


* Do all the groundwork you can possibly do before taking a problem to your manager. Be ready with recommended solutions; make it as easy as possible for the boss to respond.


* Know the exact limits of your authority. When you encounter a problem beyond your scope, research it thoroughly and take it "upstairs." But when a problem falls clearly within your scope of authority, act on it promptly and decisively.


* Rather than complaining about the ponderous, slow-moving "system," do whatever you can to help move matters along. Do what you can to minimize frustration and delay whenever possible. It may seem as though you are trying to dislodge a mountain singlehandedly, but a few managers behaving in this fashion over time can alter the character of an entire organization.



This issue of The Health Care Manager (Issue 36:2, April-June 2017) includes the following articles for the reader's consideration:


* "Ten Core Competencies for Hospital Administrators" profiles 10 fundamental competencies that will keep health professionals close to their customers and colleagues and remain continually aware of the reasons they entered the helping professions.


* "ADD and the Americans with Disabilities Act: Is Anyone Paying Attention?" explores the legal challenges to employers' policies and practices created by the increases in claims created because millions of individuals who have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder enter the workforce.


* "Evaluating New Skill Sets for Performance Improvement: Human Factors as a Case Study" presents a process for investigating new skill sets and determining whether they can support operations and improvements while providing sufficient return to justify the expense and challenge of incorporating ideas and methods into a quality and performance improvement environment.


* "Exploring Canadians' and Europeans' Health Care Professionals' Perception of Biological Risks, Patient Safety, and Professional's Safety Practices" reports on a study undertaken to explore health care professionals' perceptions of biological risks, patient safety, and their practices in European and Canadian health care facilities.


* "Is There a Trade-Off Between Quality and Profitability in Unites States Nursing Homes?" reports on research undertaken to determine if not-for-profit nursing homes provide enhanced quality care and a larger profit margin compared with for-profit nursing homes.


* "An Application of Business Process Management to Health Care Facilities" is presented to assist health care facility managers and personnel in identifying significant elements of their facilities to address and provides steps to follow and actions to take when applying business process management to specific needs and problems.


* "A Correlational Study of Spiritual Well-Being and Depression in the Adult Cancer Patient" reports on a research study undertaken to examine the relationship between spiritual well-being and depression in adult cancer patients, implications of this study suggesting the need for better screening processes for cancer patients regarding their spiritual well-being.


* Case in Health Care Management: "Why doesn't anyone tell me?" asks the reader to consider steps that an individual manager might consider for improving his or her communications posture within the organization.


* "Knowledge Sharing as a Powerful Base for Management: Barriers and Solutions" describes an investigation of knowledge management from a managerial viewpoint using a theoretical model that was developed based on a literature review conducted to evaluate knowledge-and-information sharing.


* "Conflicting Online Health Information and Rational Decision Making: Implication for Cancer Survivors" reports on a study examining the background knowledge and current phenomenon of why conflicting health information occurs in real world conditions and recommends a method for solving patient for cancer survivors who cannot themselves be active in seeking health information.


* "Information Delivery in Health Care: Preparing a Professional Presentation to Key Stakeholders" presents a structured approach that health care management can use in preparing presentations to key stakeholders about different types of situations that are likely be encountered during a professional career.


* "Significance of User Participation in a Hospital Information System Success: Insights from a Case Study" looks at user participation in the development of a system as a universally prescribed effective strategy to ensure the success of the resultant system and as an example that describes a case study involving the development and implementation of a medical records system for a neonatal intensive care unit in a large hospital.



Charles R. McConnell


February 2017