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Stepwise Success

The Truth About Management

Published February 25, 2013 6:00 AM by Scott Warner

Maine is a small state, and most of us in laboratory management know each other. We share empathy over job stress: regulations, physician demands, nursing demands, staffing shortages, and personnel issues. One manager complained, “When someone walks into my office with a little problem I just want to say, ‘Do you have any idea how low that is on my list of priorities?’” I joked that she should get an egg timer, and when the person walks in with another complaint, flip it over.

The truth about management is that it is often lonely and thankless. We have all seen managers become frustrated and ridden with angst over seemingly intractable problems. They are sabotaged by malicious employees, refuse to play politics at their peril, or are driven crazy by micro-managing administrators. Eventually, it becomes safer to work in ever-decreasing circles, associating with fewer and fewer people in the organization. This, of course, doesn’t help.

The term “burnout” was coined, interestingly enough, by a psychologist describing emotional exhaustion in healthcare workers. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) now measures occupational burnout as “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment among individuals who do people work of some kind.”

Wellness coach and health educator Elizabeth Scott describes burnout as a stress- related state with contributing factors that may be from one’s job, lifestyle, or personality. She lists factors that tend to cause more stress and thus increase the risk of burnout, including: unclear or impossible requirements, high-stress times with no “down” time, lack of personal control, and poor leadership. But causes are many.

Any factors are exacerbated in a job that few understand. It’s easy to feel isolated and unappreciated when day in, day out, there seems to be no one to lend support.

Except, of course, other lab managers. We are an understanding lot with broad shoulders who stick together, because we’ve been there and have a closet full of tee-shirts. In particular, we know how tough it is for rookies. And we’ll listen. All it takes is a phone call.

NEXT: The Power of Humor

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About this Blog


    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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