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Naught or Nice – Happiness as the New Currency

Published October 9, 2013 9:30 AM by Robby Chakler
This blog was written by Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, a healthcare consultant and aging expert who helps CEOs connect the dots that start healthcare movements. Contact him at cirillo@4wardfast.com and learn more at www.4wardfast.com.

I was preparing a slide deck for my webinar, The Patient Experience Trifecta when I kept butting my head against some troubling research.

  • Half of new nurses are verbally abused in their first three months of work
  • Empathy and moral reasoning erode during the third year of medical school
  • One in five nurses report being depressed
And on it goes. In August, the RN Work Project reported that half of 1,300 nurses surveyed reported “moderate” verbal abuse from doctors and other nurses, defined as up to five incidences in the last three months.

Of course these findings have consequences. According to Pearson and Porath, in the book, “The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It’, work place incivility has these consequences:

  • Loss of work time worrying about the incident and future interactions with the offender
  • A weakened sense of commitment to the organization
  • Weakened effort on the job
  • Decrease in the amount of time spent at work
  • Spend time thinking about another job
  • Actually change jobs
And they pin a cost to this. To be exact, a 10,000 employee organization where half the workforce has one incident of incivility annually costs the organization $71,000,000. Yes that is six zeroes.
 
In a March Harvard Business Review blog, How Happy Is Your Organization?, the author poses some pertinent questions that might help gauge the happiness of your organization such as:

  • Do your employees enjoy their relationships and their environment at work?
  • Do your employees feel they are part of something that matters?
Shawn Achor of Good Think, Inc. and the most noted expert on happiness says that “Happy brains improve business, education and health outcomes.”  I am working with colleagues to bring Happiness work into healthcare. You see we used to think that if we were healthy we would be happy. It turns out it is just the opposite. In order to be healthy, holistically, you need to be happy.
 
The good news is that happiness can be taught and practiced. In a recent Hospital Impact blog, I shared the first principle we teach organizations  - Be Conscious. I call it being in the moment. Here is an excerpt from that blog.
 
“Life is more joyous when lived consciously. This lack of awareness causes some to live in a "walking sleep" in which actions are done but feelings are absent. You may call it going through the motions. When you live consciously you are aware of your feelings as you experience life.” 
 
There are exercises that go along with this and the other four principles. These principles are:
  • Honor Your Feelings – locate the deeper nature of how you feel, communicate those feelings constructively and use them to guide conscious decision
  • Co-Create What Works – in other words give up the notion that you are right and the other person is wrong. We are here to work together
  • Release Your Desire to Control Others – you can’t do it anyway so why get all frustrated
  • Learn Your Life Lessons – realize discomfort is a part of life and that it serves you only if you pay attention to it and honor what it is trying to teach you
This last one resonates with me particularly. Entering this year, I was coming off the breakup of what it hindsight was a terrible business relationship. It caused me to pause and re-evaluate how I do business. There were hard lessons. But I followed the last principle, got uncomfortable, and then changed things.
 
In a Health Leaders survey, 22 percent of leaders reported that lack of cultural fit and employee buy-in was their biggest obstacle to their patient experience initiatives. No wonder. Can’t have “fit” if employees are not happy.
 
Some may roll their eyes at the warm and fuzzy of this happiness stuff. Before you do, take the Happiness Survey and see how you rate. It just might be that we have to get back to whistling while we work.

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