Your problems aren’t our problems

Dear Boss,

We are writing you a letter to remind you that human beings want to feel respected, do meaningful work and have some kind of influence over their workday. But it seems like you forget that, as many bosses do.

Health care organizations are structured around the work of people like us. Front-line workers who don’t get paid a lot, who don’t have much authority, who must follow the rules, and who sacrifice their best work and best years to support the demands and dreams of people like you.

When you pile on expectations and ask us to work harder and faster and do more with less, don’t be surprised if the quality of our work suffers.

If we do less work.

If we ask for more pay.

If we call in sick.

And if we quit.

When you see us as nothing but replaceable cogs, mediocrity sets in. We stop caring, and show up to do as little as possible. Undoubtedly this makes you pessimistic and even more demanding of the staff who haven’t yet given up. And so the vicious cycle of turnover and burnout continues…

Many organizations are like this, but ours doesn’t have to be. What if we were empowered to act like the CEOs of our organization and bend the culture in a positive way? What if your management acted more like leadership?

Then what?

Our work is the foundation of your organization, your potential and your contribution to the world. Don’t you think investing in what matters to us is worth it?

Sincerely,

Your front-line workers

This famous I Love Lucy clip shows a snapshot of what happens to quality and responsibility when bosses have little regard for the work and wellbeing of their workers.

Imagine for a moment those chocolates are people, and Lucille Ball is a health care provider. It’s not that hard to think about the consequences when health care providers are expected to act like mechanical turks.

It’s a trap to think that people are simply interchangeable just because of the work they’re told to do. This industrialist mindset erodes trust and respect and the only way to keep it up is to continue burning bridges, until there’s no one left.

Magic happens when bosses realize that their problems aren’t the same problems faced by the people who work for them. When they see front-line workers as sources of growth and invest in their power and influence, anything is possible.