Safe_Circle

(The Circle of Safety adapted from Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek)

I opened an email the other night sent from a colleague in healthcare marketing. It was the same email I’ve received a dozen times, the same context of three dozen conversations I’ve had in the last few years with other colleagues who work at hospitals.

My job is killing me. I need out.

Simon Sinek’s brilliant new book, Leaders Eat Last, says that 80% of America’s workforce are dissatisfied with their jobs.

That’s terrifying.

And, based on the people I know in healthcare, painfully true.

My colleagues tell me that their bodies can’t handle the 24/7 nature of their jobs. Nights and weekends are spent with their iPhones dinging with new emails to respond to, new requests (demands) from administrators, new gripes from physicians who want more marketing but don’t want to spend the money to do it right (and in a reasonable amount of time). These are people who live for crisis communications. But these are crises of their daily lives.

For many healthcare marketers (and healthcare professionals in general) job performance is based on meeting shifting goals. We’re blamed for not meeting market share goals while being asked to cut 40% of their budgets and 20% of their staff.

Administration supports branding initiatives until they don’t. Leadership changes (occurring at a much higher frequency in healthcare than ever before) mean a constant game of musical chairs with priorities, motivations, expectations.

It would be one thing if the people I speak with about these stressors were “clock watchers,” people who go to work just for the paycheck and want to check out the moment 5:00 pm hits.

But these are people (probably like you) who are passionate, want to do well, have brilliant ideas, are dedicated to their profession and embody the characteristics that make for highly effective marketing communicators.

And they’re being chewed up and spit out.

Simon Sinek writes about how as humans, we’re engineered to respond to danger. But since Caveman times, we have learned to work within a “Circle of Safety.” No matter what dangers lurk outside the circle, as long as humans bond together in that safe circle, they can accomplish anything. It’s how we evolved from hunting for food to putting ourselves on the moon.

But that Circle of Safety is shrinking in the healthcare workplace.

This means we don’t ever feel safe. Our bodies fill with cortisol. We’re stressed. We live in perpetual danger that we’ll be made examples of, that our hard-won strategies and campaigns will be erased at the next Board meeting.

These jobs are killing us.

It’s now a cliche to say healthcare is broken. Of course it is. But how will healthcare be fixed if the best talent self-ejects just to preserve themselves? What’s the incentive to fix a broken system if people trying to fix the system feel broken?

My goal in writing blog posts (as I have done every week now for four years) is to give my colleagues suggestions on how to win in healthcare marketing and branding. It’s how our firm has stayed in business for over 25 years. (And it’s why I enjoy coming to work at Franklin Street for going on 16 years.)

I don’t have any answers for this dilemma.

But I do have a few two ideas.

First, know that you’re not alone. If you’re reading this post and nodding your head, know that there are literally thousands of others just like you in healthcare, wishing there was a better way.

Second, attend local, regional and national healthcare marketing conferences like SHSMD and the conferences put on by The Healthcare Strategy Institute.  You’ll meet with colleagues going through similar challenges, and have the opportunity to commiserate.

We’ll create our own Circle of Safety.