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Engaged Employees Need Engaged Managers

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, April 11, 2011

Regular readers of this column know that when it comes to unions, my mantra has been "management gets the union it deserves." If your healthcare organization has a union, or is in the midst of organizing activity, chances are that poor management or some sort of management-labor communications breakdown played a role. Ultimately the responsibility falls on management.

That came to mind when I read a recent item in the management-friendly HR Daily Advisor entitled: Warning Signs – Unions Organizing Behind Your Back.

The item was a synopsis of observations made by Mark Ricciardi, a Las Vegas attorney specializing in labor issues. While the observations were not specific to healthcare, Ricciardi's telltale signs included:

  • Employees are unusually busy and excited
  • Talking stops or groups break up when supervisor nears
  • Employees request information about policies and benefits
  • A new "spokesperson" emerges
  • Employees who typically talk to supervisors no longer do so
  • Employees no longer look you in the eye
  • Employees question managerial authority
  • New employee alliances form
  • Changes in nature/frequency of employee complaints
  • Increases in argumentative questions at meetings
  • Increases in unauthorized "group" complaints
  • Employees seem increasingly divided
  • Poor performers show improvement

According to the Advisor, Ricciardi said HR should establish an "early warning system" that includes training managers to report all signs of labor activity, no matter how "trivial."

Comments are moderated. Please be patient.

3 comments on "Engaged Employees Need Engaged Managers"


Mitzi Doolen (12/21/2011 at 8:54 PM)
So if the HR department won't help the situation and have gone other dirstions for help? Then what? Employee feels like they have NO support, no way to express themselves, almost feeling trapped. Where are they to go? If a union can fight for the employee, why not have a union available to do that? It is difficult enough to have managers or others hear your complaints, but not to anything to help you solve the problem, isn't fair to the employee.

Rhonda S. Bell, DBA (4/12/2011 at 9:23 AM)
Hi, John You alluded to the many things that employees bring to work. One thing that was left out is their spirit. However, if management has not been engaged the spirit of the employee may be broken or being asked to be checked at the door. We are made with a body, mind, and spirit and all need to be nurtured at work. But do managers know how to nurture the spirit at work? Betty has a great point that there are great clinicians that are placed in management positions with very little leadership training or knowledge. Perhaps the wise option is to provide emotional and spiritual intelligence training so management does know how to engage and be in touch with their employees. Thank you for bringing this topic to the discussion. Inspired and kind regards, Rhonda

Betty (4/11/2011 at 5:42 PM)
You are making a GREAT assumption that the managers have the basic skill set to deal with necessities such as: communication on a 360 level, strategies for team building, holding themselves and other accountable, resolving conflict before it escalates, knowing how to staff, plan, budget, etc Excellent clinicians are often promoted into Management by the stoke of the pen changing their title .. not by giving them the skill they need to survive in their roles of immense responsibility for patient safety, employee engagement and financial alignment. We defeat their success in the role by not properly preparing managers for their role