by Dennis Ernst • November 03, 2016
Every month we run an excerpt from our editor's popular blog, The Empowered Healthcare Manager.
The Burden of Constant Affirmation
Dawn (name changed) was a medical technologist who required constant affirmation. A good tech, but a time killer for her manager. Every day before going home she'd knock on her manager's door, enter whether invited in or not, and consume 20 minutes of his time. She'd start by giving a full report on everything she accomplished that day---all routine tasks that were expected of her---then sat back for an "attaboy."
After a while, the manager assured her he was pleased with her performance, and suggested a daily report wasn't necessary. He said she should assume her work was acceptable until told otherwise. Still, she squandered over an hour of his time every week, time he didn't have to spare. When it became necessary to reduce staffing, she was the first to go.
Although Dawn was technically proficient, had a solid work ethic, and got along with everyone, she was a liability to her manager. She disrespected his time and defied his request to stop begging for daily praise-biscuits for doing what she was hired to do.
People require affirmation for many reasons. They deserve it when it's earned but requiring daily affirmation is obsessive. It's not the manager's job to make up for parents who never praised their kids.
Salvaging otherwise good employees requires tact and respect. Here's the conundrum: deny the praise-starved employee of his/her daily biscuit and an otherwise top-performer feels perpetually inadequate and disenchanted. Provide daily affirmation and your own productivity tanks. The empowered healthcare manager shows needy employees why their needy-ness is disruptive and establishes boundaries. It's up to the employee to get the balance of their needs met elsewhere.
For Dawn, it's finding satisfaction within, and not depending on external sources for her praise. It's realizing management can never satisfy her hunger for affirmation, and daily attaboys soon become obligatory and insincere.
Recognizing employees for their accomplishments is Management 101. Empowered managers don't wait for accomplishments, but praise consistent performers for their consistency. They nurture, nourish, and recognize excellence. But they don't let needy employees insist they make up for where others in their lives fall short.
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