It’s been quite the week. I moved into my new apartment about 24 hours before I was due at my first day on the job, and due to circumstances beyond my control, I had no internet access! Well, a week later, the problem was solved and the interwebs are once again pulsing through the lines in my apartment allowing me to share with you another reflection of what I have experienced over the last twelve years at my “old” job.
While having a conversation a few years ago about dealing with low morale, I was told “there is not much that I can do about morale. It depends on the individual. It is an internal thing.” While it might be true that a paramedic’s happiness might be guided by what he or she wants out of a service as an individual, leaders still play a major role in steering and guiding the values of those who work for them. Simply showing value is the easiest way of doing this.
In a field that has been described both internally and externally as having “inexcusably low pay” it is up to “the brass” to get together and find ways other than adding zeroes to someone’s paycheck to let them know that they are an important piece of the team. Putting forth an attitude of “I give you a paycheck, what more do you want from me?” will do nothing but give a service a good reason to remove their bay doors and replace them with revolving ones because they will see people leave as quickly as they walk in the door.
This is a thankless job, and frankly, the statement of “it’s your job” does carry some merit. We do have a job to do, and we do have people to serve. “Routine” emergencies happen, and even serious ones that will slip past medical directors, bosses and peers and go completely unnoticed, but it’s not the individual call that people deserve recognition for it is the individual doing the call. It is the overall performance that deserves to be recognized. It is the fact that someone is always there to answer the call, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and that needs to be remembered and championed.
In the seven years that I spent as a supervisor, I learned that very small gestures went a long way with people. Occasionally, I would give out a Dunkin Donuts gift card or just buy a crew a cup of coffee to say “thank you” for helping out on a busy day. Or, something as simple as an email to an entire department letting everyone know what a great job they did in a major incident can do a lot to boost morale.
After the tornado that hit my area on June 1, 2011, morale was higher than I had ever seen it. The community seemed to value us more and truly understand what an important piece of the public safety triad we really were. Crew members got a well-deserved pat on the back and were willing to work for days without break, not because we were paying them more money, but because they knew they had to. They stepped up to serve their community, and as they would walk around our staging location, they would hear the occasional “thank you” from people who were dropping off food or supplies.
While individual heroics were recognized, it was the overall performance of the system that was so great. No one ever said “hey, what about me?” No one felt their story was more important than someone else’s but everyone realized very early on that their contribution, while one small piece of the puzzle, was what made the response so remarkable.
No one got a raise that week. No one got a nice padded bonus. They worked for the same wage as they got on May 31st, but just the value that was shown to them by our leadership as well as the community went a long, long way. It just goes to show that sometimes the simplest things can make a difference in someone’s personal morale meter.