Barlow/McCarthy Blog

When Work Snowballs

Mar 05, 2015

WhenWorkSnowballsBy: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA

I couldn’t resist the analogy. Extreme weather is on the minds of many these days. Boston and other parts of the Northeast have just “had it” with storms piling up more and more of the white stuff. The infrastructure is not able to handle it, but Mother Nature doesn’t seem to care! It’s not so far from the work life of many talented health care professionals, is it? When the work piles up, how do you manage the onslaught and your general disposition?
Which one are you?

  • I work harder and faster, perhaps with a little attitude
  • I acknowledge the request and then continue to do what I believe is best
  • I stress over it. Often, I have conversations with many others about it
  • I try a rational approach to show why the new request is not a good one
  • I push back.  I have become the reliable voice of the staff in confronting the new work
  • I live for someone giving me more and more to do (OK, not many in this category!)
  • Others?

The challenge in all of us is that we want to perform to the best of our ability and the additional work load pushes our comfort with being able to be the best.

First, consider if the issue is quantity of work or how the work is organized. Take a minute to think about that. Sometimes, it is not the total amount; it may be a situation where the rep or leader has new initiatives all the time. Sometimes, the rep does not or cannot create a good implementation plan. It’s the organizing piece.

Be the snow plow. The obligation to do more work with less resources seems to be our new reality. The question then is, how can we thrive in this new environment? Start by considering where you want to end up. Personally, I want to feel in control, to know that I am doing my part, and to be a contributing member of the team.

For example, the manager that says, “We need to have everyone focus on orthopedics this month.” The field rep who has a sales plan that was not focused on ortho has a decision. I either do my plan plus add on orthopedics or I shift to focus on orthopedics, or I ignore the request. When work snowballs, it’s really important that we balance our obligations. And I suspect it goes without saying, ignoring is not the way to go! While it feels OK at the time, there is also a cost if you say, “OK, I will do what the boss says then, never mind my plan.” There is a huge price to pay for that. Try this instead.

  1. Listen to the request, repeat it and clarify the origin of the request.
  2. Craft a response to meet the need through a modified plan. Share  it with the manager. Set goals for orthopedic visits, but continue to work your original sales plan too. If you need to share the rationale for this decision, do so.
  3. Consider ways to work smarter in the field to accomplish both tasks.
  4. Debrief with the boss after the blitz sales effort to affirm what it took to grow the business- extra field time, extra planning, extra reporting and research, etc. Make sure to share that you were happy to be a team player. Also, let them know that some of the sales development needs were set aside as a result. Let them know that you need to get back to those to reach your goals.

All bosses will push for more production at some time.  When they are asked to push to the next level, they rely on their teams to do the same. Like that snowball rolling down the hill. We see this in referral development when volumes are down. There’s a tremendous pressure to “get some referrals.” What’s a rep to do? Recognizing that you probably don’t have any extra referrals lying around, use data, field intelligence and your strongest differentiators to create a plan to support the boss in this situation. If you are the boss, make sure that you recognize the team members at a personal level when they go above and beyond.

Is there a run-away snowball of work in your organization? What’s helping to manage the challenge? Tell us your best methods to manage.