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How to deal with subordinates putting pressure on you

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Hello guys,

Situation

At my job, nurses try to do as less work as possible. They're also overstaffed and seem very happy of doing little work. During the morning meeting sometimes there will be tasks that I will be assigning to myself because they won't do it or are too lazy to do.

So typically, we meet at 10 am, work together until 11pm then they go about their day and only the medical staff will see patients until 1pm or 2pm. Then I go eating for 30min and come back at around 2:30.

Here, the task is calling a pharmacy to know if they have a certain medicine. It's about 3pm I've been working since 8pm and the nurse says: "have you called the pharmacy?" in a tone saying: "is it done yet?" with the whole context above:

  1. She could have done it. It's an easy task she has the skills to do
  2. She's not doing much work neither since we left, neither when we spoke

So it's a form of tasking in a way. She did not task me, but she addresses me like a superior checking on my completion of my tasks.

At the moment, I did not say anything. However, this is a common instance. I always say: "not yet". Because when they ask it's because I did not do it yet. However, they rarely give me spontaneously feed-back on their own tasks. So they're not really pro-active workers for most of them. They execute tasks and go back to zoning in front of their computer or back to gossiping/talking about their children/social climbing one another. They're not telling me: "John, the antibiotics is running" or something like that.

I'm not finding a solution yet because there's a double bind:

  1. I'm supposed to be doing this task: so it's legitimate
  2.  Maybe I should not have taken the responsiblity of it (or maybe I should have, due to poor management, division of tasks is foggy and unclear among different roles)
  3. It's not done yet: so the question is legitimate

So when they do that it's a power move. Because: 1. they know I haven't completed it, 2. they're not doing anything 3. the tone is often contemptuous. 4. It seems like it's done to show that I'm not a good worker.

They do it publicly as a form of social climbing. And I cannot really defend without appearing disorganized or disrespectful. So there are 2 issues:

  1. The assignment of the task (auto-assignment most of the time)
  2. The verification of its completion

Sometimes they need me completing the task to move forward sometimes they don't. But it's a game I haven't found the solution yet. It's a power move nonetheless.

Any idea?

How about setting a board for small tasks basically a job queue and get them to put their initials beside the ones they be done - bit of social pressure.

If you just want a quick comeback "Yes that does need doing.  I m busy with ..... Y don't u give them a quick call.

Or "Oh, thanks Marlene for remembering.  Don't want a small thing to hold you up.   if you could give them a quick call that would be great"

 

I would follow Transitioned's framework as well.

I would state your priorities at the moment would so that you can frame yourself as a dedicated, busy doctor.
Followed by advising the nurses on how to complete the tasks is a good idea like what Transitioned said .

Nurse: Have you called the pharmacy?

You: My priority is attending to this case at the moment.
Why don't you give the pharmacy a quick call?

Or, if it's your area of responsibility and would like to delegate this to her,

Nurse: Have you called the pharmacy?

You: My priority is attending to this case at the moment.
I would like you to help me with this call.
Could you get on a quick call?

I'm not sure how much authority you have over the nurses.
If you don't have that much authority,

Nurse: Have you called the pharmacy?

You: My priority is attending to this case at the moment.
Could you help me with the call?

Thanks for your answer, guys.

I think there is a misunderstading. Here I'm talking about role reversal. Imagine the following situation:

There is a call to make that you need to complete a task by 5pm.

Your boss says out of solidarity: "I'm going to make the call."

You don't have much work to do, you chat with colleagues and later you look at your phone: it's 3pm. You ask your boss who looks really busy: "Did you make the call?"

So it's reverse-tasking in a way. It could be a legitimate question of course. It could be genuine. But here it's the old game of: "Look everybody: John did not do his job, I'm checking on him to make sure he does his job".

In the workplace, who's checking on other people's tasks? Yes, that's right.

I'm not sure how much authority you have over the nurses.

I'm the one giving them orders, like your boss is giving you orders. However, using authority is not called for in this situation. I took the responsibility of the task so it's mine to do. Extreme ownership.

On the first part yea we got that. On the second part you seem a bit conflicted.

You say you want to do this minor task which on the face of it doesn't seem worth a doctor's time. Calling that out and redirecting the task is where our posts were going.

And yet you're annoyed by the nurse taking you to task.

And you re asking for perspectives but then telling what should happen.  Learner mindset?

Quote from Transitioned on February 10, 2021, 12:55 pm

On the first part yea we got that. On the second part you seem a bit conflicted.

You say you want to do this minor task which on the face of it doesn't seem worth a doctor's time. Calling that out and redirecting the task is where our posts were going.

And yet you're annoyed by the nurse taking you to task.

And you re asking for perspectives but then telling what should happen.

Based on your answer I think there definitely a misunderstanding. I'll read the post and your answers again to make sure I understand it well and answer later.

Learner mindset?

This is quite passive-aggressive, though.

Apologies - dangers of commenting quickly between meetings.   I didn't mean it that way.   I have the utmost respect for your posts and the work you're undertaking.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano
Quote from Transitioned on February 10, 2021, 11:31 pm

Apologies - dangers of commenting quickly between meetings.   I didn't mean it that way.   I have the utmost respect for your posts and the work you're undertaking.

Wow. I was not expecting that. Thank you very much. I send you the same respect back. The fight you are undertaking yourself in your workplace is quite admirable.

As I said I'll read more carefully and answer.

Transitioned has reacted to this post.
Transitioned

Matthew's proposed answer goes in the right direction, I think:

Nurse: Have you called the pharmacy?
You: My priority is attending to this case at the moment.

It's an important change of perspective.
The issues with "not yet":

  • You legitimize her power to check on you
  • You advertise to everyone around you haven't done something
  • Questions pop up: why not? Was he busy? Or was he slacking off, or maybe not working efficiently?

Matthew's proposed answer addresses those issue: no, John was working on other priorities.
A slightly different way of phrasing it:

You: I've been working on this other thing, but it's on my to-do list

Or simpler:

You: It's on my to-do list, thank you for reminding it (or stronger, tasking her right back: remind it to me again before you go)

Albeit technically the same, now you don't expand anymore on the "not done".

Now the frame is that you are going to do it, that you're organized, and that you're busy.

And of course, the power move at the end: she is working for you by reminding you, now she's back in the supportive role, instead of the higher power tasking role.

John Freeman and Transitioned have reacted to this post.
John FreemanTransitioned
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Edit: this is about the self-frame, more than the frame 🙂

Transitioned has reacted to this post.
Transitioned
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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