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Stepwise Success

The S Word

Published March 24, 2014 6:13 AM by Scott Warner

In a Roseanne episode where Darlene tries to explain to Dan a bad word in front of young D.J. D.J. says, “The B word?” “Worse,” says Darlene. “The F word?” “No,” says Darlene. “The L word?” “What’s the L word?” asks Darlene. D.J. shrugs, “I dunno. What’s the F word?”

All employees know the S word.

A work schedule affects our quality of life. The hours we work, our days off, and our perception of how fair it is can have a huge impact on time outside of work. It’s difficult enough to leave work behind without worrying about the next weekend, holiday, or evening shift.

Schedules are used as instruments of punishment by management and staff alike. Managers can try to be fair, but it’s often a losing battle if staff opts to call in sick, refuses to swap, or cherry-picks vacation time. Staff can refuse to answer the phone, refuse to work when there’s a call-out, bargain, but likewise be bullied or coerced into working. Favorites may or may not be given the best shifts, but it’s perception that matters. It doesn’t matter what the intent of the manager is. The buzz rules the roost.

It doesn’t seem possible that a single piece of paper should have so much power over a group. Every time the S word is mentioned, it can bring feelings of dread and apprehension. What does she want now? Will this affect me? Everyone has an agenda, which is understandable, because the schedule is everyone’s agenda.

Hospital laboratories need twenty-four hour coverage. This means early shifts, evenings, weekends, nights, and possibly call. Someone has to cover the shifts. Add to this mix labor union rules, real or imagined past practice, and seniority, and the schedule can be remarkably difficult to reengineer into a tool to get work done efficiently. Any change to an established order, from who works what to how the schedule is displayed and posted, is seen as a threat.

Next, I’ll consider a few ways to fix scheduling.

NEXT: Fix That Schedule

posted by Scott Warner
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About this Blog


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