Sad Nurse: A Case Study

Sad Nurse: A Case Study

I came across a letter to the Social Q’s editor at the New York Times. It was called “What About Me?”.

It read:

A short time ago, my boss, (an executive in a hospital system) pulled me aside and told me she was nominating me for a nursing award. I’ve been a nurse at my hospital for a decade, and I have a great reputation for giving the job my all. Today, an email went out to all employees with a lovely presentation that included a portrait of each nominee for the award and the story of why they were nominated. I was not included! I am trying to be stoic, but it hurts. I enjoyed the prospect of recognition by my employer. I am not sure how (or whether) to approach my boss about this. Advice?

Signed “Sad Nurse

You can read the answer in the New York Times here (It is the second question in the column).

Instead of looking at this psychologically (as the advice columnist did), I took an HR approach. Here are my thoughts.

A Case Study

Let’s pretend we are at Harvard Business School and the scenario in the letter was presented to us as a case study.

What might we glean from the fact pattern presented and what recommendations might we make to the organization?

This hospital, like so many in America, is staffed with dedicated professionals. These nurses, doctors, technicians and support personnel come to work every day, often times with very sick patients. They are clearly dedicated to the mission of the hospitals, to their coworkers and their patients. We have lots of healthcare heroes in our midst and the hospital in question also has extremely dedicated personnel.

The second thing we might observe is that the organization has a formal, episodic recognition program that is valued by their senior leadership and veteran staff. The announcement of the winners is a big deal!

So far, so good. But it goes downhill from there. How so?

The employee who feels slighted is afraid or unsure of how to approach the manager who promised the recognition. And the manager does not display the proper communication around the fact that our nurse’s nomination wasn’t displayed. Does this organization/leader have an issue around trust? Around 2-way communication? We don’t know, but it might be worth looking into.

But most importantly, the story demonstrates the narrow view of employee recognition in this hospital. A big, splashy program that shows up once each year. It has few winners with lots of losers, who become de-motivated, discouraged and deflated.

If this Sad Nurse had received regular praise and recognition, would she be so sad?

A robust reward and recognition program should have lots of winners and few losers. That is how a culture of recognition thrives.

We know from behavioral and high-reliability experts that a culture of safety calls for at least 5 positive reinforcements for each negative to be effective. At WorkProud, we know how to do this. We have been helping hospitals and other businesses create that long sought-after culture of recognition.

Let’s find a time to speak. Together, we might be able to move in that direction and have more happy nurses.

Visit our healthcare page here to learn more on employee recognition in healthcare, and to discuss your organization’s specific situation by booking time on my calendar.

Published by

Zach Lipner

Healthcare Heroes Advocate at WorkProud

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