Mismanaged Conflict Affects Everyone

As I was walking into the long-term care facility, the new receptionist stopped a couple who was walking out because they had brought their dog for a visit.

“Did you get permission to bring a dog into this facility?” the receptionist asked.

“We’ve never had a problem before,” they answered.

As I was checking in, the receptionist said, “I can’t believe all the things people try to get by with here. They go into the resident’s lunchrooms, bring their pets, and get ice from the ice chest.”

As I listened I thought to myself, this is an example of mismanaged conflict.

As a daughter of one in a nursing facility I’ve experienced a tremendous amount of stress learning to navigate the long-term health system. As a consultant (not working with this facility) I have some things to share with the intention of helping any type of organization build a better culture.

Rules Matter

My mother has been in long-term care for over three months, and I’ve never been clear about the rules. There has never been an orientation for the family on what to expect, who to ask if you have a problem, or what to do if you have a complaint.

One day one of my favorite CNA’s invited me into the lunch room to retrieve my mother. To my shock, the assistant director of nursing “scolded me” and said I was not allowed in the break rooms.

If employees don’t know the rules they’ll misrepresent the organization.

Resources Matter

Another day I asked for for a longer oxygen tube. It was confirmed by both a hall nurse and the CNA that there weren’t any long oxygen tubes due to COVID. A few days later I inadvertently mentioned the “supply chain issue” to the administrator who was shocked. “That’s not true she said. We have plenty. All you have to do is tell the director of nursing.”

Lack of resources contribute to a multitude of problems. In this situation the resources were available, it was the communication that was lacking.

Accountability Matters

I often noticed that my mom didn’t have cold water, and ice was nowhere to be found. Three different employees confirmed that the reason was a resource issue. “There’s only one ice chest for three hallways,” I was told. When I addressed this issue with the director of nursing she said, “We have one chest for each hallway. I sign off on it every day!”

Employees may complain about resources but often the real issue is accountability.

More than one occasion I have surprised the administration with issues unbeknownst to them—too many to list here. I believe this is because real accountability is not a checklist.

Teaching Points

  1. Confusion inside an organization ripples out to your clients.
  2. An orientation for staff gets everyone on the same page.
  3. An orientation for clients helps you manage expectation.
  4. Front line leaders who are not developed simply check the box.
  5. Accountability requires hand’s on leadership not an over-reliance to a checklist.
  6. No matter how many resources you have, if there’s no communication it’s as if you have none.