Healthcare Workplace Spotlight: It’s All About How People Feel Around You

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Here is a harsh reality of workplace politics that some people have not quite grasped: regardless of how well we are able to perform the technical and procedural aspects of our job duties, most employees will never get too far at work if people do not feel comfortable around them. Yes, the way people feel around us is very important. Some further elaboration on this phenomenon is needed, so here we go…

Many workers are amazing at the hands-on, technical aspects of their jobs. For instance, a nurse named Selma has approximately 10 years of experience in various areas. She is highly intelligent and has a masters degree in nursing. Selma has worked in a variety of higher acuity nursing specialties including interventional radiology, critical care, post anesthesia recovery, same day surgery, inpatient dialysis, and the emergency room.

Selma is proficient in a large number of technical and procedural hands-on skills that many other nurses have not fully mastered. For example, she is an expert at operating ventilators. She is also an expert at starting intravenous lines, accessing ports, running bedside hemodialysis machines, managing multiple IV drips, applying wound vac appliances, and performing comprehensive head-to-toe assessments of patients.

However, something is not quite right with Selma. She has had 19 jobs in her 10 year career as a nurse. Patients and families complain that she is not expressive or warm and that her bedside manner is cold. Coworkers would say she is very smart, but brutally honest and hard to be around for expended periods of time. Selma believes she does her work well, so she does not understand why she never manages to keep a job for long.

On the other hand, another nurse named Mamie also has 10 years of experience in a number of different areas. Mamie is an RN with an associate degree from a trade school and experience in lower acuity nursing specialties such as long term care, hospice, post acute rehabilitation, home health, private duty, doctors offices and seasonal flu shot clinics. Mamie has been at her current job at a nursing home for the past seven years.

Mamie does not have most of the hands-on technical skills that Selma possesses. Mamie does not know how to operate ventilators or access ports, and she is not terribly good at starting intravenous lines or managing IV pumps. While Mamie can complete patient assessments, she has never touched a dialysis machine. While Mamie knows how to apply wound vac appliances, she surely would not call herself an expert at this skill.

However, Mamie is beloved at work due to her cheerful personality and ability to make people feel good about themselves in her presence. She always offers assistance and has great interpersonal skills. After five years of dedicated work as a floor nurse and weekend supervisor at the nursing home where she is employed, she was promoted into the nursing administration department to serve as the facility director of nurses.

What is the difference between Selma and Mamie? Even though Mamie may be far less skilled in the hands-on aspects of nursing, her social skills are impressive. In other words, Mamie has mastered the art of causing people to feel comfortable around her. Mamie is aware that people do not care what a person knows until they know that the same person cares about them. Meanwhile, Selma has not yet figured this out.

The moral of the story is this: our time, interactions, encounters and experiences at the workplace will be made more pleasant and easier if people feel a sense of positivity and optimism in our presence. The initial step to induce comfort in people and put them at ease is to behave in a gracious and kindly manner toward everyone, regardless of who they are. After all, the way people feel around us is very important. Remember that.

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