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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How not to hire a supervisor or boss or editor

If you are going to hire a person to be a supervisor to a particular department of a business (in our case a hospital), or anyone who is in charge and has to lead, there are certain rules you should follow in your hiring practice to assure success.

Ideally, you should hire someone within the hospital.  This person would have a good understanding of all the personnel involved, the doctors, equipment needed, and a good understanding of the company.  Likewise, the hiring party would know this person's strengths and weaknesses.

However, sometimes this isn't possible.  So you have to hire from the outside.  If you are going to hire someone from outside your institution, make sure you hire someone who has a plethora of expererience in that  particular department.  If you are hiring a critical care coordinator, for example, that person should feel completely comfortable working in that area.

Likewise, you must NOT hire someone who is just out of school and has only a few years experience working in a particular area.  This would be akin to throwing that person to the wolves.  It's not fair to your institution, yet it's also not fair to that person.  You are setting that person up for failure.

Some people might succeed in this situation, yet the odds are not very good.  Here you have someone with only 2 years experience bossing people around who have 30 years experience and know a ton of a lot more than that new boss.  In this instance, this new person will probably lack the life's experience to know that he should admit what he doesn't know.

Likewise, how can a person with no experience, or little experience, know how to help out when she has no idea what's going on to begin with.  If I say, "Hey, this pulse oximeter isn't working. We need to get it fixed or get a new one."

The new boss should be able to either a) know how to fix it, or b) know who to call to get it fixed.  If this person can't think out of the box on a simple task like this, then she's not qualified to lead this department.

She must also be strong and thick skinned to be able to handle the various personalities within the department, especially strong personalities.  She must be able to accept complaints regarding the schedule, and likewise be thick skinned about it.  She must not be afraid to be hated by a majority of those who work under her, and, in some cases, even hated.

I think that these skills can be developed given the proper training and orientation, yet lacking training and orientation, and lacking life's experience, I think the odds are pretty difficult this leader will succeed at least at this given time.

I write this post with my own experience.  I went to school to be a journalist, and the first job that became available when I graduated was editor and sole staff writer for a small weekly newspaper.  I was excited to get this job, yet thrown into it full force, I wasn't prepared.

I was 25 years old, and here I was in charge of not just writing the stories, but coming up with the ideas for stories.  I also had to come up with ideas for the inserts and special sections that were created and already filled with advertisements.  This ultimately became overwhelming for me.

I ended up becoming so stressed that I forgot how to write. I couldn't think of any story ideas, so the stories I did write sucked.  So I became stressed and even depressed.  After 3 months on this job I was fired/ quit.

However, I do think I would do fine on this job today, given my lifes experience.  I think I could do a better job dealing with the different personalities, with the mayors calling me and complaining about a story I wrotee.

And I would have had a better idea what to do when the mom called me because she didn't want her son's name in the courts record for the week.  Back then I was stressed and called my boss, who told me I had no choice but to put the name in.  The mom was mad.  I felt bad.

Today I would simply take the name out and have the mom bring the child in.  I'd make the child work with me for a week.  I'd have him promise me he wouldn't do it again.  And if he did I wouldn't even hesitate to put his name in the paper.

I think I would have succeeded if I had better orientation, yet the people who hired me did not properly orientate me and they did not mentor me.  They threw me to the wolves.  I failed.  I failed because I was hired to do a job I never should have been hired to do.  It ruined my confidence and it ruined my journalism career.

So I think hiring a young person to a coordinator position would be a mistake.  The odds are that morale in the department will sink, and you are also dooming that person to failure.  You will ruin that person's confidence and may even ruin her career. 

Yes I've seen it many times.  Now I'm to the point I predict, "That person will be gone within a year."  I'm usually laughted at and told I'm being a jerk.  Yet the truth is I'm being realistic, and I'm almost always right.  you can't hire a private to lead the troops.

Bottom line, hire someone with experience.  Hire someone with a little age.  Or, at the least, start that person at a little lower position, perhaps as assistant, and then move that person up the ladder once she proves her worth.  Orientate that person.  Mentor that person.  Yet please don't throw that person to the wolves. Doing so will not only harm your department, it may destroy that person.

So please regard my rules of hiring bosses here, and you'll find yourself more likely to benefit your company and those who work for you. 


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