(The other title I wanted for this post was “Let’s stop denying that the effed-upness of an organization doesn’t emanate from the top person.”)
I was new to the team. The CEO hired me for my “leadership abilities.” My resume included that I was an experienced umpire, a world traveler and a registered nurse for forty-two years. I’d worked in the best hospitals with amazing teams. I’ve written articles, been featured on a t.v. series and last year I traveled the country discussing my book on End of Life and hospice care.
My leadership style is not a “heads will roll” type of leadership. In the beginning, I acknowledge to everyone on the team that when someone new joins the team it changes the dynamics in a small or large impactful way. I expect them to watch the way I care for someone and to discuss new ideas, old ideas, creative ideas and compliance with the ever-changing laws.
I should have known there were big problems within this hospice. The CEO refused to visit the house because she said we were “all pack rats and I can’t stand that.” She chose to concentrate on the home care department which was quite busy. Her office was on the first floor and the in-house hospice was on the second and third floors.
Oh? “Pack rats?” I decided to observe everyone for the next month. And let me tell you; I found out what the problem really was. Why many nurses simply walked out during their shift and never returned. How the nurse aides were completely terrified and paranoid, and how some of the talented ancillary staff emotionally tiptoed. I’m sure you know the look; that plastered smile that translates as “Don’t you dare say anything to me about the elephant in the room. We’ve gotten used to her/it/them. We just walk around the elephant, I don’t see why you can’t!” That was the support staffs’ most common look.
I call these people E.T’s. Emotional Terrorists. They scream, yell, speak sternly most of the time, walk towards you with their chin out, come from behind you with an aggressive gait, and even though they want to be liked and loved, they choose to lead with nothing close to compassion or in any manner of being magnanimous. They want power. They want respect. It’s an “It’s my way or the high way” mentality. “Grace” is not in their wheelhouse. The people who compliment/have drank the Kool Aid are afraid of them say, “Haven’t you seen him/her work?! Oh his/her work ethic is so wonderful!” Or, “He/She created this and should be commended for it!” Or, “He’s/She’s politically involved! She fights for us!”
So when I filled out the questionnaire about my opinion about the hospice, I knew they didn’t want to hear anything they conceived as negative. The Emperor is actually dressed, you know? The nurses and aides were afraid for me.
I own the fact that I was a bit slow learning the triple documenting charting on their ancient computers and software. But I often stayed late after my shift (no overtime given) and made an honest effort to learn. All the nurses admitted to still being a bit confused and learning the system after a few years. Years.
When I realized the CEO didn’t run a hospice from compassion and truly had no idea what compassion looks like, sounds like, smells like and feels like, I had to resign.
The bully culture is just not worth trying to change or influence if the leader is the problem; especially when the population we are serving is extremely vulnerable.