Do You Need Anger Management?

Vol. 18 •Issue 27 • Page 24
Do You Need Anger Management?

If you do that again, you’re fired!” This is a catchphrase that can often be overheard in departments where managers use anger, threats and intimidation to keep their staff members in line.

Short-term results of the burst of anger bring out bulging neck veins and anxiety attacks and typically get immediate employee compliance.

Long-term results of this management style, however, may yield anything from a mass department walkout to legal action against the hospital.

When angry managers combine threats with a failure to take the corrective action needed (writing someone up or firing them), an escalating law of diminishing returns takes effect. If the only thing employees hear is a continual stream of threats, the threats began to fall on deaf ears even as stress levels continue to mount.

Recognizing that you’re in an environment of anger management is easy, but taking corrective action may pose more difficulties.

Chain of Command

Hospitals usually have a chain of command in place so employees have an avenue for expressing their grievances. An angry manager may be seen by this chain as fulfilling an obligation to keep a department in line rather than as a person who is destroying needed morale.

Sometimes the grievance can be handled outside the normal in-house chain of command. A growing trend among large corporations is to employ a third-party mediation service. Complaints are generally kept anonymous, and no identifying factors like age, race or gender are noted unless the complaint is germane to a problem like sexual harassment.

The upside to using third-party interaction is it relieves the employee from the stigma of being a tattletale.

However, there is no guarantee the complaint will be forwarded to someone who will be willing to take action within the hospital hierarchy. In fact, a manager’s temper tantrums may be discounted by a corporation which has spent thousands of dollars seeking out a plum manager and considers the exodus of lower level employees an expense that can be easily written off.

In nearly all cases that are sent to grievance, one of the first questions asked of an employee is, “Did you tell the person you did not like how they spoke to you?” Declining to confront abusive behavior up front may be understandable on a personal level, but grievance committees are required to give the benefit of the doubt. In other words, assuming that someone will not respond to a polite request to change an attitude throws the responsibility back on the employee issuing the complaint.

The employee is also expected to react to the situation in a professional manner, which means refraining from profanity or threats in response to what could have been a profusion of profanity or threats from the manager initially.

When grievances are kept in-house, it is best to conduct some research before taking action on a complaint. Everything from the mission statement, grievance protocol, and written expectations on employee comportment should be reviewed before requesting an investigation. Being educated and able to quote from such references allows a complaint to be viewed as something more than a general complaint of “my boss is being mean to me.”

Placing specific incidents into a complaint (and being able to cross reference it to expected behavior) gives concrete evidence of a manager’s trend in violating policy. Dates, times, and exact language are essential as are names of individuals who witnessed the behavior, especially if the situation involved patients.

Safety in numbers can help create a setting where there is a verifiable complaint requiring action. A single individual’s grievance is not necessarily less important than that of three or four, but it makes a more effective case for spreading a case if there is widespread trouble. Reliability within the group is essential, because three upset employees with the same story trumps two who refuse to follow through, or worse, recant, leaving a lone soldier of justice to correct the issue that may no longer be taken as seriously since fewer people are involved.

Filing a grievance with no guarantee of an eventual outcome can be a difficult choice to make. When filing the grievance, you should also explore the options of changing hospitals should such a move be necessary. Knowing your real worth within your current hospital helps in making the decision, as does knowing what a therapist of your caliber and education are worth within the community where you live.

Healthy work environments do not give anxiety attacks, chest pain or night terrors. Healthy therapists recognize this and a good environment helps them keep not only their jobs but also their sense of well being.

Cheryl Ellis is a Florida freelance writer and artist.