Follow up to Friday

Please refer to last week’s post titled In the Thick of Things for point of reference. We experienced a similar day yesterday with one huge difference: everyone remained relatively upbeat and calm. Let’s explore some of the reasons why.

Reason number one: we learned from our experience. It’s satisfying for me to know that even though tensions ran high and egos were bruised we were able to move forward. My assumption is that although not everyone may have forgiven or forgotten the episode on Friday they rose above personal resentment and were able to work professionally throughout a similarly stressful workload. Bottom-line is that we did not want to repeat Friday’s fiasco.

Reason number two: the boss remained calm. I’ve noticed from time to time that people at the office seems to mimic the mood of the boss. It’s the same way at home. If you come to work with a cheerful attitude and remain such throughout the day most people will follow suit. Subsequently, when you are agitated or angry that mood is similarly infectious. I reflect on last Friday and remember that I arrived at work tired and frustrated. My mood wasn’t improved by the sight of so many case files awaiting our attention. In fact, my mood darkened drastically. I imagine that throughout the day my requests and inquiries seemed harsh and demanding to employees. Consequently, the attitude I presented to them, compounded by the daunting caseload tarnished their moods.

Contrariwise, I arrived yesterday with a determined, pleasant attitude. In response, employees and coworkers exhibited a similar attitude. The workload was the same as it was on Friday which meant that we would be spread thin by performing autopsies all day without a break. The stress level was equally as high. The difference: we each took control of our attitudes and were champions for one another.

Reason number three: employee appreciation day. Displaying appreciation is energizing. The Department of Disease Control and Prevention of the Department of Health hosted a retreat for all of its support staff. I would like to believe that folks were on their best behavior yesterday because they felt appreciated. Regardless of the caseload I promised my staff that I would relieve them of their responsibilities so that they could leave for half a day in order to attend an event in their honor.

Incidentally, I visited with the Chief Medicolegal Death Investigator this past Monday. We enjoyed a 30 minute conversation. He told me a story about SWAT and their response to burn-out. He commented that we sometimes overestimate the amount of stress we can handle. He suggested that sometimes it requires administrators to appreciate the amount of stress that is tolerable and learn when to pull an employee out of a situation before that limit is reached. We brainstormed a few strategies to solve the issue or at least help mitigate exhaustion in employees while performing autopsies.

This week I took the opportunity to speak personally and freely with a few of my employees. They have expressed personal goals of maintaining positive attitudes. Some of their solutions for maintaining a positive attitude include walking, running, or hiking during lunch hour. Some will do it alone while others will do it as a group. Wish us luck.

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