1. Hader, Richard RN, CHE, NE,BC, CPHQ, PhD, FAAN, Editor-in-Chief

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Communicating with staff members who work a variety of schedules is a difficult task. Posted notices, shift huddles, staff meetings, and e-mail are all tools you can use to spread information. But have you noticed that sharing good news always appears to take a concerted effort, while bad news travels throughout your organization at lightning speed? Why do troubling messages always seem to get everyone's attention, but good news takes forever for people to hear?

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Even billboards are no match for word of mouth when trying to send a message. People talk with others constantly, and when the information is unfavorable, the gossip channel is busy. And unfavorable information isn't always based on fact; rather, it's often sensational fiction that easily mutates throughout a department. For example, a staff member might say that he or she's always short staffed. This staff member might repeat the statement a few times, and before you're even aware of it, the entire nursing department believes that your department suffers from chronic short staffing, when, in fact, your department isn't short staffed. Now you're faced with trying to transform this negative perception into a positive reality.


As leaders, we're challenged to positively and consistently communicate to minimize the spread of a negative agenda. To mitigate perpetuating misinformation, establish an essential ground rule with your staff: If a team member has an issue, he or she must confront the primary source to ensure that the perception is correct. After an issue is determined to be fact, it should be addressed through honest and open communication. Swiftly address those who don't subscribe to this standard so their behavior can be readily corrected.


Be acutely aware of the messages you send through both words and action. Mind the tone, style, and frequency of your communications with staff members. Articulating a message with integrity fosters trust and a culture of openness, while failure to be honest furthers negative innuendo that may fuel harmful interpersonal conversations.


Provide staff members with forums in which to discuss any issues they have. Encouraging "airing of concerns" without fear of reprisal thwarts the spread of misinformation. Each and every interaction between yourself and your reports will be judged; therefore, you must ensure that your messages are consistently planned to avoid misinterpretations.


Frequently repeat good news and recognize individuals or groups for their achievements. Sharing positive information will soon become the norm and take hold of the discussion on the internal grapevine. That said, don't be fearful of addressing bad news with your staff members. Chances are they're aware of it before you tell them. Be up front. Offer the necessary information. Don't dodge or try to hide from difficult questions. Your staff members might not like what they're hearing, but you'll walk away from the interaction with gained respect that'll last significantly longer than the bad news.


Richard Hader