The 'I' in Toxic Team

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

Have you ever been a member of a Toxic Team in long-term care? Where you're always watching your back, thinking you're a martyr, wondering what so-and-so meant when he or she said this or that, feeling defeated before you start, and endlessly on the bubble?

Speaking of bubbles, to be part of a harmonious, non-poisonous team — as I blessedly am — is like working from a hot tub. You're supported by colleagues on all sides, and that warm water has your back. You can safely decompress, admit your fears, get perspective and tell the truth to each other. It's really quite blissful.

Full disclosure: I frustrate my boss and coworkers. I say dumb things and annoy them like crazy. I get stressed out, with a wild look in my eye and forget there's a bigger picture than today's impossible task. But bottom line, they'll always snap me out of it, usually with kindness or gentle reproof, because we're a team and we're going to succeed together.

Not everyone is so fortunate, of course, and it's never easy. But if you're a silent Toxic Team member, you're somewhat complicit. Maybe there's no “I” in team, but you can't spell toxic without one. So if your situation is poisonous,* you're responsible to draw boundaries, stand up for yourself and others, and try to change it — or leave. [* Check out Rob Bell's RobCast: “The One about Boundaries.”]

I realize it's seldom that simple. We all need jobs, and can't risk our security for a self-destroying crusade. But it's not just about us, especially in long-term care. Our callings require 100% energy for those we serve, and toxicity saps our strength. We're like heart surgeons — we don't get to throw down our tools in frustration, have a drink from the flask in the credenza and go home early.

Frail and vulnerable seniors are counting on our full attention, all the time —uncompromised by soul-sucking distractions. And they deserve it.