Emotional investment and surviving

Some of you will have seen a few of my tweets about the fact that I have been unsure about whether I was going to be made redundant during the current round of NHS organisational changes. I heard verbally this week that, at least for the moment, this is not the case, although there are still changes to be made and like any health organisation I’m sure we will continue to be under review – but for now I at least will continue to have a job.

This blog is my reflections my feelings about this process and my learning.

I actually consider myself to be a very lucky person. I have worked since I was 16 – I have been in continuous employment and have mostly enjoyed what I do. I come from a family with a strong work ethic; working is a core part of me and my life. I love my job as a nurse where my career has taken me into many interesting roles; I have been prepared to take risks and achieved lots of different things along the way as well as having a great deal of fun and meeting fantastic people. I guess I have what might be called a portfolio career these days!

There is a downside to this attitude towards my work. It means that I have an emotional investment in what I do; this driven by my attitude towards work in general but also my feelings about the public sector and the vocation of nursing. If I had no emotional investment perhaps what I am going to say next wouldn’t have happened.

When we learnt that our jobs may be redundant I had very mixed views – part of me (probably the ‘head’ part) saw the possibility as a ‘game changer’, something that would force me into making some different choices and as a result open some doors. There was, though, an underlying fear; what if I couldn’t get an alternative income that would support my family? Another fear – if I wasn’t Anne at work in a job of nursing who was I?

I am sure I am not the first or last person to have these fears and anxieties but it was these nagging fears had an unexpected impact. I have found over the last few months of uncertainty I have felt less focussed and less connected with my work.

I am no HR expert but my investigation into my thoughts and feelings has led me to read a few things online that talk about something called ‘Survivor Syndrome’http://www.employment-studies.co.uk/pdflibrary/mp28.pdf. It’s a relatively old theory but to some extent seems to drive the way organisations should deal with situations of ‘down-sizing’ including recommendations such as ‘over communicating’ at times of change.

Survivor Syndrome affects those people in organisations who do not lose their jobs and it affects their psychological relationship with their work. They may become driven by guilt or further fear and anxiety about their future as well as having a negative effect on their personal social networks. I know that the threat of not having a job has affected me. I have been less engaged with both my work but more importantly I have probably been a poorer leader; I feel like I have been much too inwardly focussed. This blog from the Harvard Business Review ‘Three Ways Leaders Make Emotional connections’  http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/10/three_ways_leaders_make_an_emo.html explains how I might have been failing especially by not recognising that the feelings I thought I have been internalising are actually out on public display. I suspect they have been as I have been described often as an ‘open book’ which is not always a strength!

tigger and roo

So what is the personal learning in this for me?

• At times of change I need to remember that my feelings may affect others around me
• I need to stay fit and well with a good life balance to retain emotional resilience when I’m under pressure
• I am emotionally connected to my work in a way I hadn’t thought of before and I need to remember what this means as it is both as a strength and a weakness
• If I’m feeling like this, others are too – what can I do to help them?

All comments are welcome!

‘Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.’
Marie Curie

6 thoughts on “Emotional investment and surviving

  1. Good blog Annie as ever.

    These jobs aren’t employments in a traditional sense. They are vocations and I often say “lifestyle choices”. We do care and invest in them and in the public sector. I have always been proud to be a public servant and the value that brings. When I have seen hard work demolished as policies change, organisations abolished after being carefully built or delivery fail it has hurt. Resilience is important at these times and an understanding of how we feel impacts on others. Because they may be affected in the same way. Research for the NHS Constitution showed 70% of staff were driven to work in NHS by values (twice what you get in industry).

    I learned a few years ago that looking at how I think, what I will do and how I feel should all be considered equally. I often revert to think and do and making time for the “feel” has to be consciously done. And letting others know how you feel builds connections rather than suggesting weakness. I am still practising that one!

    Ps. One of the big themes from my recent listening events with staff was the impact of change on morale and the connectedness with the trust. This will be a big theme across the NHS this year.

  2. Great blog, it has made me stop and think and reflect. Your blog has reminded me of my experience recently when learning about self and difference with the Kings Fund. I was exposed to some very prominent FEELING types, it did me good to appreciate things from their perspective, F doesn’t naturally feature too highly for me! I have to actively connect feelings into the work i do managing and leading, it seems so much easier to incorporate with a client.
    It’s clear that no matter what the situation it is possible to take positive things and learning from it. I bet lots of us don’t really appreciate how much of our role is us and how much of us is our role. I can’t imagine not being a nurse, not for a moment. I think facing this would cause some kind of grieving process for me, worth considering what kind of support organisations have in place when having to restructure and what our role in this might be.
    Thank you.

  3. The emotional attachment to work as a nurse can not be overestimated. Like you Annie I have been experiencing head and heart conflict. Having recently went through organisational change where 3 nursing teams were effectively broken up and partially joined together ,I have experienced a very emotional 18 months. My head tells me I am effectively doing the same job, in the same area , but emotionally I have lost the attachment to what was a very good team. Prior to the change there was a lot of staff engagement , but since the change there has been no review or communication as to how the change is working or any “team building ” . Basically we turned up for work one day and were all moved to our new posts.When breaking up nursing teams I don’t think there is any recognition given to the fact that although we all have individual skills and qualifications , and team members come and go naturally, we are a team and team dynamics must be taken into consideration. As a footie fan I have seen this on the pitch ,1 new player can fit into a scheme quite quickly but 5 or 6 new players and it takes weeks to gel together.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I think emotional ties can be underestimated in many situations

  5. Thank you to everyone who has read and commented on my blog. When I wrote this I really didn’t expect the response that I got – it has been a positive experience to share my feelings and reflections. I am grateful for those who gave positive messages and for those of you who had a similar experience to mine I hope you find strength in understanding. Anne

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