Like the first day of a school in a new school, being a new employee in a lab is stressful. You report to work and often, have very little confidence. Will someone be there to greet me? Will anyone ask me to break or lunch? And if not, will I be able to find the cafeteria? There are work related questions too, but for a veteran technologist in a new job, those questions are not as relevant.
But what happens when the new kid in town is the supervisor or manager? There are expectations beyond those of a new technologist. And the respect of your team gets earned beginning with your first actions and interactions.
My first supervisor’s job was back in the 1990’s. I had almost 10 years’ experience as a bench tech. I had an Associate’s Degree as an MLT and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. I was certified by ASCP, and I felt that I was ready for the advancement. What I wasn’t prepared for was the personal side of being a supervisor. Gaining that experience and confidence would require time and determination.
I start all new management jobs with best of intentions. I begin with an open mind, exploring and learning how things are being done, and then patiently institute any changes and improvements that I feel are necessary. I get to know each of the techs, understand their personalities and technical qualifications so that I have an idea of how to work with them. As I have since moved into several other management positions, I have learned that this plan is critical for early success.
The Natural Leader – I watch and observe to see who the natural leaders had been. I remember one employee who had taken the lead and most of the responsibility in the absence of a supervisor. She was a very good tech, but also very set in her ways. As I would soon discover, this was the only job she had ever had. She had been there since the clinical portion of her Med Tech program, almost 25 years earlier. I would also soon discover that every time a supervisory change occurred, she would take charge, but never wanted to be the supervisor. Working together would be critical since the other techs trusted and respected her. It was critical for me to acknowledge her skills and knowledge while positioning my ideas to support her ideas rather than to change them.
The People Pleaser – Every lab I have worked in has had a tech worked hard to make everyone happy. This is the tech who always offers to help, to take on more responsibility, and to switch holidays and weekends with everyone. This tech seems like a dream co-worker, and in many ways, she is. But as a new supervisor, don’t be fooled by the pleasant façade. Keep your eye out for any hidden agenda – whether it is conscious or subconscious. One such tech I worked with was willing to trade holidays and weekends with anyone who asked. And then, when she wanted to trade a holiday, and no one was available, the other side of her personality appeared.
As a new supervisor, I didn’t recognize this personality until it was too late. But now that I am aware, I monitor and manage this behavior with care. Instead of accepting every offer of help and allowing one person to take all the schedule shifts, I acknowledge the offers and only accept those that are necessary. This removes the expectation that the offers will be reciprocated automatically.
The Influencer – This is the tech whose opinion is taken as “word” to all the other techs. In contrast to the natural leader, this employee is more discrete. The influencer is not as obvious, and harder to spot. The less experienced employees tend to follow the influencer with blind faith. This impacts your ability to manage both the influencer and the employees who are influenced.
When I first encountered this type of tech, I found the easiest way to manage an influencer was using a two-pronged effort. I engaged the influencer as a partner in rolling out new processes and procedures. I also make a point of acknowledging the assistance of the influencer to the other techs. By directing the influencer to share my message, the power of my message was multiplied.
Whether you are the new tech, the new supervisor, or the new manager, working together begins on day one. Keeping an open mind, exploring and learning how things are done, and getting to know everyone’s personality will make for a smooth transition, without interruption of quality patient care.