Emotional Intelligence and Long Term Care

Without question, working in long term care is demanding and stressful. In addition to the intrinsic stressors staff must face daily in nursing homes, often they must also struggle with managers who add to the stress. It takes only one thoughtless supervisor to create a work environment that goes from bad to worse in an instant.

Unfortunately, there are managers and supervisors in long term care who may lack self-awareness or the desire to evolve into better leaders. They may intentionally create “power distances” between themselves and their employees. This distance may also signal that they may be unapproachable.

Nursing home owners, CEOs, corporate executives, department heads and charge nurses are all in positions of leadership – positions that have a profound effect on staff attitudes and the performance that they convey to their residents.

When key staff lack knowledge of effective personal management approaches, it is impossible to cultivate a healthy and productive work environment – the kind of work environment so crucial to the proper care and comfort of their residents.

Workplace stress invariably has a negative effect on the emotional well-being of employees. The one way to alleviate stress in the nursing home environment and ensure the quality of life for the elderly residents is for providers to require that their executive management and department heads evolve as leaders and learn to manage the emotional needs of the workforce, in addition to the operational needs of the facility.

In Daniel Goleman’s book, Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, he takes the core position that great leadership is acquired by influencing the emotions of those who lead. In fact, the author posits that the fundamental task of leaders is to prime good feelings in those they lead and create resonance or a reservoir of positivity that brings out the best in others.

The main premise behind the emotional intelligence theory is that the essence of any job, for any human being, is emotional. An individual who is emotionally bankrupt is simply not capable of spreading a wealth of warmth, compassion, nurturing, and tolerance on the job. The greater a leader’s skill at transmitting emotions, either positive or negative, the more forcefully the emotions will transfer to others. When leaders have the skill to steer emotions in a positive direction, they enable employees to transcend the mundane aspects of a job and achieve their best. This process is known as resonance.

It is management that sets the tone and creates the atmosphere in every facility. Negative, non-compassionate and non-responsive managers create facilities whose hallmarks and atmosphere are conveyed in uncommunicative protocols, etc.

As humans, we rely on connections with others for our own emotional stability, and when those connections are positive, emotional stability is easier to sustain and disseminate.

It is clear then, that the focus of all organizations should never be about just one leader, but rather about creating a constituency of leaders throughout all levels of that organization.

The emotional intelligence philosophy strongly supports an environment that cultivates emotional intelligence throughout each level of that organization in order to teach employees how positive communication, cooperation, and collaboration, as well as having empathy towards one another, can create an inherently compassionate environment for the residents and their co-workers. Remember: your facility is who you are!

Quotable Quote: “It is not the strongest among us who survive. Nor is it the most intelligent. It is those among us who are the most adaptable to change.” Lisa Unger, Author
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