“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – Henry Ford
“Because this is the way we’ve always done it”. Most of us have heard this phrase or a form of it at some point in our lives or careers. It’s like the work version of your parents saying, “because I said so” (Now I’m certain you’ve heard of that one). In the healthcare space, it’s said time and time again. In reality, there are many things we do for no apparent reason that we cannot provide a particular explanation for other than “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
We are creatures of habit so there is comfort in consistency and keeping things the same. It is very easy to fall into this mindset where everyone agrees that the status quo is the only way to operate. Just because this is the way it’s always been done does not mean it’s the best way. When asked “Why,” many continue to hold onto past rituals even when we have no idea where they came from.
There is one thing that remains constant in healthcare and that is change. When you are in a workplace that is resistant to change it can be very frustrating. Nothing squashes innovation and opportunity more than a culture that discourages new ideas. When all change is viewed as bad, it doesn’t matter if you are restructuring the whole department or just changing the color of the scrubs.
Disengaged – this is the most difficult to deal with. These employees see nothing in it for them or just don’t care.
The initial response to change is usually negative. People will complain, concerned about how the change will affect them, or have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. This negativity limits the ability to see positive aspects of improvement. Understanding emotional reactions can help you anticipate these responses. Change is an emotional experience. Remember the last time you experienced change at work or at home? You likely experienced some sort of emotion; happy, sad, excited, depressed, anxious, and you remember the change because of the emotion attached to it. Resistance to change can be for a variety of reasons. At times you may not have the vision to see any benefit from the change. You are in your comfort zone doing things the way you are used to doing them. It could be sensed as a threat to your control. If you are a person who is an expert at the process that is changing you might feel your job security is at risk. Then there are the folks that just don’t care…
Leaders must constantly question the status quo and established rituals to seek ways to improve. If you want your team to accept changes then it will require open communication and planning. Often, we just need to listen. People want to feel that leaders care about them and their concerns. While you are listening, ask for opinions and suggestions. People are more likely to support change when it is navigated democratically – if possible. Don’t ask for opinions if you have no intention of considering them. This will only make things worse. Finally, if possible, give people options. This will give a sense of control and the previous complaining will shift to decision-making.
To maintain and grow our organizations, we must constantly question and challenge the status quo and seek ways to improve. If the only reason you can give for why you are doing something is “that’s the way it’s always been done,” then you’re setting yourself up to be disrupted, because somewhere, someone is looking for a better way. Challenge yourself to look at things in a new way. Cultures change, circumstances change, so our procedures must change with them.