Everyone has things that push their buttons. I’m no saint; I admit I have my list of those triggers, but the one that rises to the top of my list is victim thinking. I have little tolerance for people who choose to be victims in their work and in their lives, particularly when the behaviors affect the patient experience.
It seems that, the majority of the time, victim thinking is subtle yet insidious. On occasion, I have the good fortune of witnessing a comment or behavior that is so blatantly obvious it could stop any logical person in their tracks, giving an opening to challenge the person on the spot. I had one such occasion during a recent culture assessment for a hospital system. I typically like to get staff to share what they know about their patient satisfaction scores and any efforts being made to improve them. In this particular encounter, a nurse raised her hand and informed me what she knew about the hospital’s scores. She followed with the statement, “But our patients are liars. They lie about their care just to make us look bad.” There were head nods all around as she explained this phenomenon unique to their community. What?! Patients are out to make them look bad? Talk about being a victim! If this is how they really think, how can this group of employees ever engage in finding solutions and improving the patient experience?
As if this comment wasn’t disturbing enough, the most shocking part of the encounter was when I met with the managers and shared this comment and response from the staff. Again, head nods around the room. What?! Not the managers too! I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing. As a group, they had decided that patients weren’t telling the truth on their satisfaction surveys. What they didn’t realize was that labeling the patients as liars not only pits staff against patients but embraces the belief that no matter what they (employees) do, the patients will never be happy. Needless to say, this was a great coaching opportunity. Most of the managers in the room had never associated this type of thinking with a poor patient experience. They had slowly adopted this as a normal way of thinking. Unfortunately, that norm was victim thinking, and it had become a deterrent to progress.
Leaders must be vigilant about insidious comments and behaviors that prevent the organization from being patient-centered. And one of those is victim thinking. This month’s newsletter features tips for spotting victim thinking in your organization and some steps you can take to begin turning around the victim-think to empower and optimize your team.