Several years ago, we began something had been heard of but was not yet a trend. We bought back Halloween candy from kids in the community (with a max on the cash paid), then boxed the candy to send it to our men and women in the military. Over the years, it became popular with many other organizations. And, like many things that begin as a reward, it began to be expected. The luster and enthusiasm was lost. Lost. I believe, on the patients, the community, and the team.
We would ask patients for addresses of soldiers overseas to send our candy to, but struggled to have enough addresses. We found it difficult to get staff to volunteer (other than the faithful few that are always there to support office events). Last year, we found a national program called Operation Gratitude that organized, in a mass effort, the very same program we were feeling quite lost in. We have continued our program and will again this year. This event like, so many things we experience in life, needs a bit of a kick start.
A relationship is constantly evolving and needs to be nourished to thrive. Our relationships with our team need nourishment, as well. What are you doing to nourish your team? We have instituted different bonuses for the team. I call them “moments of appreciation.” But I fear that because it coincides with a date on a calendar rather than a purposeful unplanned moment, it is less meaningful (or worse yet, expected).
I always appreciate a gift or card in association with a birthday/holiday, but I seem to really enjoy the unexpected ones. Why is the team or our patients any different? I feel the burden of the team feeling under-appreciated because myself and my partner can’t catch every good moment. Like many, we aren’t the best at seeing the positives in the first place. Although, is it a one-way street? Does our team thank us for working that extra patient in? Do they thank us for paying them when we say we will? Of course, being the bigger person—giving and not expecting anything in return—is the golden philosophy. But is it endurable?
I am not proposing that I have the answers. I am simply asking the questions so that you can self- reflect and see where you fall in the spectrum. What kind of employer are you? “Send this lab case,” is different than, “I need this lab case sent, please.” Both are statements of direction and intended expectation, but one is with common respect for the other human being.
Not all statements can be sugar-coated. But maybe your tone could be tweaked to encourage a positive reaction. Also rather than planning yearly rewards during Hygiene Month, Assistants’ Week, and Business Administrators Day, maybe it could be spontaneous (or at least appear to be). Shuffle the names of your team and scatter the same reward that would be given normally in conjunction with the calendar date at random instead, making sure each is recognized throughout the year.
You could plan two years ahead and choose a different charity to participate with, in lieu of Operation Gratitude. Maybe an Easter Candy Buy-Back and to benefit a local soup kitchen. Then, the following year, choose the local service club such as Kiwanis or the Lion Club to work with. Mix it up to avoid ruts. Nourish and flourish!
“Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you'll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you'll find that you have more of it.” —Ralph Marston
Colleen B. DeLacy, DDS, FAGD