Administration and Leadership

EMS Managers Adjust Style

Issue 10 and Volume 36.

I recently received an e-mail that really intrigued me—mainly because I could read the passion in the e-mail and how truly frustrated the writer sounded. Usually you can’t interpret someone’s written words, and sometimes we take them to mean something different. But there was no mistaking what this person wrote. Here’s what he had to say:

Dear Gary,
I work for a jerk! This guy yells at employees in front of others; he yells at people over the radio; he yells from his office window onto the parking lot. He fires employees at the drop of a hat. He’s egotistical. He thinks the world centers around him. He butts into conversations that do not involve him, only because he thinks people are talking about him.

If we get a citizen complaint, we are always wrong, no matter what. He says that if they call and complain, we did not meet the patient’s, nurse’s or citizen’s expectations. So we are automatically guilty without [him] hearing our side of the story.

One day, one of my friends was fired because he had to take off work early because his wife went into premature labor. He was fired because the jerk would not give him permission to leave, and he left anyway.

The best part is that I am miserable, but I have nowhere else to go. The nearest ambulance service is in the next county, and the local hospitals don’t hire EMTs. I love what I do, but I dread coming to work knowing that this jerk is just waiting in the wings to pounce on me and my co-workers. Why do bosses act this way?

Jerk Checklist
I continue to be amazed that people who behave the way this employee’s manager does reach a high level of management. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would put someone like that in charge of an operation. Surely he has a boss who must see what’s going on—or at least hears about it. But I guess that is how the Peter Principle got its name.

I’m also amazed that someone in a management position thinks it’s alright to act this way.

This e-mail got me thinking. Does this guy not realize he’s a poor manager and a sorry excuse for someone who’s supposed to be a leader? Maybe he’s absolutely clueless and thinks his behavior is acceptable.

So I’ve created a “jerk” list for those EMS managers who fail to realize they’re jerks. It’s kind of a checklist to measure yourself and see if you fall into the “jerk” category.

Public humiliation
Managers who berate people to make themselves feel good and reaffirm that they’re the boss.
These managers are bullies who are everyone’s worst nightmares. They abuse their power to make other people’s lives miserable. They have no qualms about yelling at people, and the phrase “criticize in private and praise in public” has no meaning to them. They enjoy humiliating people in public.

Managers who can’t distinguish managing from micro-managing.
A good EMS manager knows to trust their EMTs, paramedics and supervisors. A first-rate EMS manager has faith in their employees and guides them in the right direction and mentors them when they make a mistake.

A manager who has to watch over everyone’s shoulders on calls, projects and other assignments is micromanaging and sending a message to their employees that they have no faith in them.

Failure to give employees proper credit.
Managers who fail to give credit where credit is due and take all the credit for themselves.

Good bosses praise their employees when they do a great job, and they never sing their own accolades. The jerk bosses have no idea what positive reinforcement is or how it’s used. When an employee comes out with a great idea or does something positive, the jerk boss always takes credit for it.

During my time, I saw one boss who would shoot down anybody’s idea at a staff meeting. But if you told him the idea in private, he’d introduce the idea at the next staff meeting as his own.

Lack of empathy toward your employees.
Managers who lack consideration or sensitivity toward others.

Sometimes your employees have personal issues they need to address, or they may need some assistance from you. Show your employees empathy so you don’t seem like a jerk.

These are just a few examples of bosses who can be real jerks. Occasionally, each EMS manager should examine their behavior, work habits and general demeanor to see if there’s an opportunity to improve.

Even if you don’t think you’re a jerk, self reflection is a good idea. Looking in the mirror and assessing your performance as a manager is not a bad thing. It’s something I recommend for every boss.

And if you are a jerk, please change your ways. JEMS

 This article originally appeared in October 2011 JEMS as “Jerks: Do your employees hate working for you?”