Standing up for the camel — and your staff
Have you ever watched a camel stand up? If not, please do so right now. I know you're a busy, scattered, possibly frantic, long-term care professional, but this is important. Here's a link. I'll wait.
So … now that you've watched a camel stand up, would you not agree that it's about the most ungainly, awkward thing you've ever seen? If you're not sure, take a moment to think about it a little more, perhaps while also watching this video of a different camel standing up in extreme slow motion. Again, I'll wait.
If a pile of randomly connected Tinker Toys suddenly came to life and decided to rise to their feet, they would do so more gracefully than a camel does. In fact, I find a camel doing just about anything else to be less visually troubling than one standing up. There's just something about the way it wildly lurches and rocks as it lifts, the way the joints reluctantly grind open like a rusty folding chair, how otherwise inviolable laws of physics seem threatened at every stage.
But despite the obviously sad and unfair evolutionary conspiracy against this humpy mammal, we still persist in making things unnecessarily difficult, by forcing the poorly-designed beast to basically lie down so a bunch of us far more agile humans can climb on.
It's probably worn out by the time it struggles back on its feet, and that can't possibly be the best strategy to get a camel to do its best work. There has to be a way to instead bring the people up to the camel, and it doesn't need to be complicated or expensive. A ladder comes to mind.
Unfortunately, I fear that's how even the best managers can sometimes inadvertently treat staff—making jobs more difficult than they have to be, often just out of habit or inattention. But the sad plight of the camel reminds us to constantly seek every opportunity to lift the job to the person, identifying and removing anything that doesn't ease and support their path to ultimate success.
Maybe that means more help with childcare, more flexible scheduling, more innovative benefits, more praise and less criticism, or simply not nickel-and-diming the tools they need to do their best work for our residents and facility operations. Whatever the job description, there's probably a wealth of opportunities for the sorts of little changes that could lead to better staff retention and results.
Basically, we should do whatever it takes to preserve all their strength and effectiveness for the most critical parts of the job — rather than piling on or ignoring unnecessary barriers to success, and then asking them to stand up.
Still not convinced? Watch this video. I'll wait.
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.