I've had enough
Last week my receptionist quit. On the spot. Walked out. She had been with our company for years.
Then yesterday one of my best medical assistants gave her 2 week notice.
It makes me really sad. I mean, I get it. It has been a really tough year. On top of all the stressors that working in healthcare has brought over the last year, our private practice went through a merger and there has been significant change: change in leadership, change in structure, change in responsibilities, change in proximity to other team members.
And these changes are affecting everyone.
It’s not like one person has a personal struggle and everyone else is doing great and can buoy the struggling along. Everyone is struggling, everyone is trying to navigate the new normal… and some days it just isn’t pretty.
I find myself sitting here, reflecting on how this all has been for me. I have lost coworkers who are important to me. Coworkers who were let go and coworkers who didn’t see themselves continuing with the company in the new structure. It’s been tough. I find myself making the decision every day to stay, to support myself enough to continue at a job I know I am good at, taking care of people that I am invested in, and helping rebuild a practice into a new configuration.
I have been through these types of changes in the past and I know that it always seems to get worse before better. It’s like cleaning out the pantry, you think it will only take 30 minutes and the next thing you know, every surface in your kitchen is covered and it takes 3 weeks to put it all back.
Have you had any big changes like this?
Changes that make your heart hurt?
Changes that make you understand with compassion when someone just gets up and quits?
And yet despite this, you want to figure it out and stay. You want to believe that the final product will be better than the current mess. You want to believe the pantry will look amazing when you are done pushing through, getting a new system and reorganizing it all, even if there’s no room for the Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Here’s what has helped me over the last year, not in a linear way but more in a spiral, back and forth way.
Allow yourself to grieve the loss. Maybe give yourself a little space to just be sad about the loss of what was. Sure it wasn’t perfect but it was known, and comfortable. When we don’t take this little acknowledgement break, we end up resisting the grieving process, trying to move forward while dragging this huge weight of unresolved grief behind us. It’s hard to move forward with a counterweight.
Accept that we can’t go back. This is the first step to actually moving forward in a positive way. As Byron Katie says “you can fight with reality, you only lose 100% of the time.” Change is inevitable, don’t waste time on a no win war.
Decide how YOU want to move forward. Sure, there are parts of the job we have no control over but we can decide if we are going to be problem focused or solution focused. Decide that solutions exist and then set out to find them. The problems will be there whether we focus on them or not.
Consider that maybe there are more than 2 options: your way vs my way, the old way vs the new way. What if there was a 3rd option? What would it be? Can brainstorming open up new possibilities? By looking for solutions outside the obvious ones, you can regain some control.
Look for understanding. Social science has shown that if a person knows why they are doing something, they are more likely to be cooperative. I have seen this with my MAs. When I can explain clearly and educate them on WHY we are doing something, the day goes much more smoothly. Maybe I should look for some more understanding for myself. Maybe there is an explanation that doesn’t have to be “because they want to make my life difficult.” Once I let go of that thought I have room to consider other options. Maybe I ask for some clarification, not in an aggressive “Why me?” kind of way but in an “I want to understand” kind of way. The truth is, I want to buy in. After all, it will make my life so much less stressful if I understand why I am doing something. And even if I don’t agree, I can decide that I don’t have to agree with everything to be happy and fulfilled at work. Even the old system wasn’t flawless (sometimes we seem to forget this.) Deciding to be happy and fulfilled at work, even when I don’t agree, gives all the power back to me. Doing my job doesn’t mean agreeing with every little thing. It means I am doing my job… the one I am getting paid to do.
Identify what you actually want, and then look to see if you are doing something to block that. What do I really want at work? I want to give great patient care. I want to have a connection with my coworkers. I want to have a pleasant work environment. What am I doing to make these things happen?
Find a way to mark your own success during the day. This last step may seem incongruent with the others. Don’t rely on other people to find your success. We all do a lot of amazing things at work and at home. And we tell ourselves that it is hard to never get any acknowledgement, that people should appreciate the work we are doing. But do we take time to acknowledge ourselves? Do we stop and say “good job” or do we cover up our self appreciation with complaints about the system? Why should we expect something from someone else that we aren’t willing to do ourselves? This step may sound trivial but it is really life changing. Take a minute every day to write down your wins, the big wins and the small victories, the work successes and the personal wins.
Here’s some examples of success if you are stuck.
Caring for A LOT of patients
Getting out of work on time.
Taking time to connect with a patient in need.
Getting outside for 10 minutes at lunch.
Being patient with my coworkers who are struggling too.
Coming up with a tweak to the system to make it easier for everyone.
Listening to my coworkers concerns and trying to problem solve instead of pile on my own issues.
Helping someone else get their work done.
Drinking my water during the day/getting enough sleep/ doing a meditation/exercise
Feeling defeated is not something that is out of our control (I promise).
We all spend some time in defeat, it is a natural progression of how our brain looks for danger. But how long we stay there is up to us. It is a choice to sit in the problem and not acknowledge all the ways we are totally killing it in a tough situation. Once we are aware of this, we can start climbing out of defeat.
And when we finally climb out, it makes every little success all the sweeter.
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