An internal challenge that's far worse than mission creep

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

All this new technology sure is wonderful. It's letting us instantly tap into needed information as never before. Which explains why we no longer feel like our company bureaucrats are burying us in paperwork, right?

Yes, that was a poor attempt at a joke.

At many long-term care organizations, the reality is quite the opposite. Many operators are finding that rather than having more time to get work done, they actually have less. And for this, they largely have themselves to blame. Or, more accurately, their well-intentioned colleagues.

These are not DMV expats on a mission to impede progress. No, for the most part these are good natured co-workers who are pleasantly interacted with each day.

They are also the people who out of the blue send the occasional email noting that a new form must now be filled out. The note also insists it is such a simple form that it won't require more than a moment to complete. It's a trap! Navigating those so-called easy forms often turns out to be about as effortless as walking across the Amazon Jungle with just a machete.

A slight variation is the memo from nice person from another other department who has approval from On High to make a new policy change requiring – you guessed it – the submission of more new information on a regular basis. But not to worry. This latest clock-eater will also help make the organization stronger, the author insists.

What are you supposed to do when these love notes arrive? That is, after your blood pressure recedes back down into the pre-hypertension range? You essentially have two undesirable options. One is to raise a stink and risk being branded someone who is not a team player. Or worse. The other is to suck it up and comply, once again. Just quietly and miserably go along, while knowing in your heart of hearts that you are being forced to do a redundant and probably unnecessary task.

Actually, there is a third option. You can quietly leave and take a job at another place where the paperwork compliance quotient is less ridiculous. Just be sure to tell HR you left because a better opportunity came along. Otherwise, word may get out that you were a malcontent.

There's not a pleasant scenario in the bunch. Making matters worse is that there really is no “bad” person here. Just well-intentioned people trying to do their jobs – even if it prevents you from doing yours.

I wish there were a magic bullet to solve this challenge – which from the scuttlebutt I hear runs rampant across the long-term care field. Alas, there does not appear to be an easy fix. (However, I would love to hear how anyone has found strategies that help.)

My only advice is this. If you are in a position of authority, do what you can to look out for your people. Question whether directives from outsiders that take hours to master and complete are really worth it. Do this diplomatically, but do it.

Just as important, don't be part of the problem. Think twice before you ask others you lead to take on additional paperwork tasks that bear little resemblance to their job description.

Otherwise, you may discover the hard way that it wasn't really the outsiders who ran your company into the ground.

John O'Connor is the Editorial Director at McKnight's.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.