Boundaries. Imagine if countries had no boundaries. We wouldn’t know who was ruling us. China, India, South America, and Russia could make rules for the United States. When we raise children, we teach them boundaries for their own good and the good of others. ie not touching/hitting others, not stealing. Psychologists have noted that people in general are much happier when they have boundaries. Why do some nursing leaders not have boundaries at work?
For the nurse leaders who started out as a staff nurses, changing their mindset to one of leadership requires new skills. Transitioning to leadership positions can be difficult because we have empathy with the bedside nurse. After all, we were just like them and most of us thought that “management was out of touch” with what goes on in the trenches.
Now you are the manager. To prove you’re still in touch, some leaders try to continue to do the tasks they used to do as a staff member while still trying to do their managerial work too. Now everyone, including you, feels that this is the way it’s supposed to be. So often nurses equate a “good manager” to one who works side by side with their staff. As a manager there is a whole new world of responsibility and new tasks that must be done. Because a lot of those tasks don’t include ‘hands on’ care, the perception of some may be that you are not ‘working’. When everyone else’s shift is over, now you have to start trying to get YOUR work done and wonder why your days are so long.
You haven’t set boundaries. You don’t recognize where one job starts and the other ends. You only have so much time and energy. The truth of the matter is you, as the manager, have become like a new country. Guidelines and boundaries need to be set up. Often staff expects you to be ‘like’ the previous manager. This can also present a problem especially if the previous manager was well liked. Remember you don’t have to run your country like the others did before you, but you do need to run it.
I once faced this very issue during an interview for a new managerial position. During the interview, I was informed that one of my duties would be to cover the nurses’ assignments when they were off. That was what the previous manager had done. There was a staff of seven with 4 weeks’ vacation each. Doing a little quick math in my head, I figured I would be working as a staff nurse for 28 weeks out of the year not including sick time or other leave. Having been in management for several years by then and understanding my role as a manager (coordinating, educating, data collection) among other things, I knew that this would not be the best way to utilize my skills as a manager. After explaining this concept of time not being used to supervise and the dilemma this posed for really doing the job they were hiring me for, I was offered the position and needless to say I didn’t cover staff assignments. It was my job to make sure the work was done, not to necessarily do it. I set boundaries. It was respected and my work life balance was better for it.
Tips on How to Set Boundaries
- The role of a manager/ leader requires special skillsets. Honor that and realize you will need to have a new mindset without negating your past.
- Empathy is not sympathy. Use your knowledge of what it’s like to be a staff member and use your management skills to help find solutions.
- Decide what your boundaries are in order to create and maintain work-life balance.
- Work with your staff as part of the team with everyone having different contributions to the work of the team. Let them see how what you do contributes to the work they do.
- Design a plan so you and your staff can focus on the priorities of each role.
- Make your boundaries known up and down the chain of command.
- Stick to them.
Remember boundaries are good for everyone. Believe me EVERYONE will be happier in the long run.
I would love to know how you set boundaries at work. Is it working for you? Let’s talk about it. Join my Facebook Group The Leaders Journey Network.
Naomi is a Registered Nurse, Certified Life Coach and Motivational Speaker. She is owner and CEO of Consults Unlimited Inc., a Professional Life Coaching company. She is known as the Life Coach RN. As a Life Coach she specializes in helping nursing leadership “Live and Work Smarter not Harder!” With over 30 years of nursing experience, she has been in management for over 19 years. For more information about coaching with Naomi, visit http://www.LifeCoachRN.com
Category: Management, Nursing, Leadership, Uncategorized