A few months ago I was spending time on a nursing unit where I was doing shadow/coaching. It gave me an opportunity to hang out with the staff in the breakroom. What I observed was a close-knit group of professionals who truly enjoy their time together. But I also observed a communication habit that was wearing the morale down. They were in the habit of BMW – bitching, moaning and whining. There was a pattern of focusing on what wasn’t going well or lamenting about demanding or complex patients. One complaint led to another and another fostering a bit of one-upsmanship and drama.
I happened to notice one nurse looking uncomfortable and taking her lunch and leaving the room. I later asked her if something was wrong. She answered, “I love my work. It’s hard work, but I love being a nurse. I don’t like listening to people whining all the time. There’s a lot we can feel good about and that is where I want to focus – so I avoid the breakroom chatter.”
I pointed this pattern out to the manager. At first she wanted to ignore it because, after all, this was their break time. But after some discussion she decided to devise a plan to avoid BMW. She challenged the team to share one thing that was going well for them each time they entered conversation in the breakroom. After just two weeks, team members reported that they were feeling more energized and encouraged.