So many times during the last couple of years I have used the phrase “we don’t have the luxury.” I often said that we didn’t have the luxury to fall apart, that we didn’t have the luxury to panic. And what I meant by those words is that we cannot allow ourselves, no matter what the temptation or provocation, to behave in ways that will, ultimately, not serve us well.
I’ve had occasion to think about that phrase recently in a different context. In many fields, healthcare high up on the list, tensions are high. We’re under pressure to recruit and retain scarce staff, to effectively care for those who have more and more complex conditions. We’re under pressure to manage budgets and control costs and, at the same time, create growth and a vision for the future. It is, I would tell you, just the name of the game right now.
And I will also tell you that, as human beings, emotions run high and we don’t always have ideal relationships, or ideal interactions, in our workplaces. There are people who I describe as “tap dancing on my last nerve,” there are people who are not as respectful as they should/could be, there are those who behave in ways that are purely and simply difficult.
It is not easy, heaven knows. Many of us, myself included, have no poker face. I can tell when I am reacting by the tone of my voice and the tension in my shoulder. I am sure that all of my nonverbal behaviors reflect that as well, the look of my face just the icing on that cake of reaction. I struggle for control and, sometimes, I have to take a break from the situation and allow myself to calm and re-center.
I don’t believe we have the luxury, as those in leadership, to just let our reactions take over. I do believe that we have to be self-aware and to strive, every time, for higher ground. It is not always achievable, after all we are not machines without feelings but it has to be the goal. If we don’t rise above, not only do we lose but we diminish ourselves, diminish our power and diminish our effectiveness.
In our growth as people, in our growth as professionals, I think the idea that “we don’t have the luxury” is a concept we need to own, to keep in our minds, to use as a measuring tool for our behaviors and the way in which we interact with others.