Finding satisfying work can be difficult, especially for new therapists, but also for therapists looking to make a change in their lives. I have found that two factors increase or decrease job satisfaction, whether I’m working as a traveler or permanent therapist. Working with a strong team that cares about each other can make any job great. On the opposite side, weak management that fails to address chaotic situations can make any job miserable.
A Strong Team is an Integral Component of Job Satisfaction.
You know you have a strong team when you feel valued, and that your fellow team members care about you. I was recently traveling back from the Midwest to Sea-Tac airport in Seattle. My flight was delayed and I was going to miss my connecting flight. I phoned one of my rehab directors to let him know I might not be able to make it to work the following day due to the delay. Not only did this individual tell me not to panic, he offered to pick me up in Seattle after midnight (a round-trip travel time that would take over 3 hours). It was not because staffing levels were at critical levels, it was because he genuinely cared about my well-being. That is why I have worked at that specific facility now for a year and I would do the same for him or any of my other coworkers.
Basically, strong teams are able to put others before themselves. Whether you are talking about a sports team, or a therapy department, teamwork involves each participant knowing their role, but going out of their way when they can to help others do their jobs better.
Maintaining a strong team can be difficult. Anecdotally, I have found that the following two factors will doom a strong team:
- Office Gossip: Gossiping in general decreases trust and respect and is always toxic.
- Low Standards: Low standards can effect anything from personal appearance and attitude to poor interactions with patients or other staff. One team member can doom the rest of the team by lying, cheating, or cutting down other team members. One bad apple may give an impression that the whole team is incompetent.
Poorly Managed Chaos Leads to Job Dissatisfaction.
As I mentioned above, the stronger the team atmosphere the better the work environment. Unfortunately, I’ve found that when facilities or organizations are “managed by chaos” they have weak teams. All work environments have their share of chaos. Whether it’s poor communications of expectations, fluctuating staff levels, difficult patients, or unrealistic expectations of therapists and nurses, every facility struggles with dynamics that can lead to chaos. When I say “managed by chaos,” I’m basically referring to a management style that doesn’t tackle these problems head on and turn them around. For example, when a therapist calls in sick one of two things can happen:
- Everyone panics, including the manager/director
- No one panics and everyone agrees to a common goal of filling and picking up the load.
I have been in both situations. Resentment, anger, and deep feelings of being let down by a teammate can occur in the worst of situations. On the other hand, I have been in situations where the concern for the health of the individual calling in sick and the desire to keep the team functioning took precedent.
Most people have worked in environments where you walk in the door and are immediately inundated with problems, complaints and long to-do lists. I have found these types of environments to be toxic. I once worked at a skilled nursing facility where the rehab director walked through the gym in the morning on her way to her office and was immediately inundated with questions, complaints, and requests. I would have done what she did every day, too, – go the office and close the door. However, ignoring problems never makes them go away. Chaos is a part of life, and how we deal with it and how a facility deals with it is the issue.
Be a Part of the Solution.
Finding the right balance of work and life is important to everyone, especially us millennials. I have found that working in facilities where the management ignores chaos hinders strong team building. On the other hand, a strong team can manage chaos and come out stronger on the other end. I encourage every therapist to do whatever it takes be a building block of a strong rehab team. What things have helped your rehab department become a stronger team? Please share them in the comments below. Thanks!
Justin Johnson is currently living and working in Bellingham, WA. Justin graduated from Central Michigan University with his DPT in 2008 and earned his GCS designation in 2011. Justin has worked for large trauma 1 and teaching hospitals along with diverse settings as a travel PT for many years. During the winters Justin can be found sliding up and down mountains on his skis or at Mt. Baker where he is a volunteer ski patroller. During the months where there is no snow he can be found on two wheels. You can reach him at [email protected].