In the mix: Take time to understand your manager

Stressed Out Nurses Weekly, September 1, 2008

Editor's note: Author Kathleen Bartholomew will be speaking at the 26th annual NSNA MidYear Conference in November in Reno, NV. Until then, we'll occasionally be featuring excerpts from some of Bartholomew's captivating and influential publications. Here's one from Stressed Out About Communication Skills:

Of all the professions on the planet, those of us in nursing have the honor of dealing with the most challenging and interesting people. Homeless, psychotic, frightened, and confused patients are frequently in our care. We provide these patients with generous doses of kindness, support, and understanding. But what happens when the most difficult person in your life is your manager?

Commonly seen personality types in healthcare are:

  • The control freak: "Don't even breathe without my approval." He or she wants to monitor your every move.
  • The authoritarian: "When I want your opinion, I will give it to you." He or she acts like your mother—when you were 2-years old.
  • Postcards from the edge: Definite overload. A nervous breakdown is seen as time off. This type of manager is juggling so many tasks, he or she even dreams of work.
  • The roadrunner: "Life's a race and then you die." If you can catch him or her, you can have a three-second conversation.
  • Terminal apathy: Flat effect. No wrinkles. Face is always covered with a blank stare. He or she can't even remember caring.

The bottom line: The better you understand how other people view the world and what motivates them, the better you will be able to influence them to behave in helpful ways. This requires empathy—a sincere desire to see the world from another's point of view. Sometimes a manager might be suffering from depression or anxiety, or going through an extremely difficult home situation. Even then, you are not doing your manager any favors by keeping quiet. When under stress, human beings often default to one of the above styles—and managers are human beings.

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