We frequently have the privilege of coaching people who do extraordinary jobs that involve caring for others. While their clients are diverse and may be the aged, disabled, abused, vulnerable, traumatized or sick, the common thread is the importance of compassion and care in what they do.
The organisations these carers work with look to recruit people who are empathetic, kind, non-judgmental and respectful. They want people who see their work as a vocation, not a job, who will place their clients at the centre of all that they do.
These organisations generally recognise that the work is emotionally and often physically challenging to perform over the longer term. Subsequently, they educate their employees in the early warning signs of vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. They also promote self-care, self-compassion and the importance of support, debriefing and professional supervision.
While such approaches to self-management and support will always be core to thriving in these occupations, the impact on individuals of the broader team culture and changing organisational and community expectations is often paid less attention. This is despite the fact that the work environment can add another layer of challenge to what is already personally demanding work.
In our work coaching teams to become more resilient, we are constantly reminded of the importance of the collective and leadership actions needed to create sustainable performance for those caring for others.
Each team is unique but some common themes brought up in our workshops include:
- How do we adjust to changes in service delivery in our organisation, community or industry when the changes may not align with what we believe is effective client care?
- How do we look after each other and still stay connected despite the ‘busyness’ of the working day?
- How do we spend the time we need to spend with our clients when we have what seems to be an ever-increasing stream of paperwork around compliance and other requirements?
- How do we provide the care we believe our clients deserve when we are constrained by key performance indicators such as fixed session times or client through-put targets?
- How do we maintain our personal core values around client care when we feel our organisations are becoming less compassionate and more ‘corporate’ in their approach? In these circumstances how do we continue to connect with the ‘why’ that brought us to the work in the first place?
- How can we maintain respect and care to our clients when we do not receive this from our leaders, colleagues or stakeholders?
- How do we ensure our personal and professional boundaries are consistent and equitable?
- How do we feel a sense of adding value when there is more bad news than good and we cannot keep up with demand or meet the expectations of us?
Whenever the challenges are beyond the nature of the client work itself, discussing these and having agreements on how to manage them together supports the personal actions people can deploy to stay resilient. It is important that the team and leader fosters resilience rather than detract from it – especially in roles that are high in emotional labour.