It’s halfway or maybe even further through your orientation, and you haven’t received a lot of feedback either way. You think things are going OK, but your manager has called you in for a talk.
You’re nervous and have a bad feeling about this. Maybe it’s the way she asked. She seemed a bit uncomfortable. You enter and sit down, but she asks you to get up and close the door, please.
Sure enough, she starts with “How’s it going?” but soon assumes a “now-let’s-be-serious” expression and segues into “I have some concerns.” The concerns are time management and prioritization. What should you do?
When you are given a verbal or written warning or counseling, you are also being given a chance to turns things around and save your job.
It never helps to be defensive when you are being counseled, even when you feel they are wrong or misinformed.
Chances are that your manager hasn’t directly observed your performance, but she has received feedback from your coworkers and preceptor. If she says “It has been brought to my attention” or “Several people say…”, do not ask who “they” are.
She most likely is not going to divulge names, and asking “who” complained may be seen as a way of deflecting or discounting the feedback she’s giving.
The best thing is to listen carefully, strive for understanding, and take it to heart.
When You are Blindsided
The feedback may come as a surprise to you, in which case you can say that you were not aware of these performance problems, but that you appreciate being given the opportunity to (now) improve.
Even if time has passed since a meeting with your manager in which you were taken by surprise, you can remedy an initially unfavorable reaction by circling back and giving this message:
“I’ve had some time to think about what you said, and I see your point.”
Ask for Clarification
Make sure you understand exactly aspect(s) of your performance you are being asked to improve.
Without being defensive or argumentative, ask for clarification.
“I understand that my time management is a problem. How would my performance look different if my time management were improved?”
You can also ask for help.
“What do you think would most help me to improve my prioritization skills?”
Your nurse manager should provide you with an action plan. If not, ask for one! If not a written action plan in so many words, then be sure you are provided with measurable goals. The best goals are SMART Goals.
Your performance goal(s) should include all of the above in order for you to succeed and for you and your manager both to know if you’ve met them.
Close the Loop
Ask when you will meet again with her to review your performance. Ask if you can come to her with questions or guidance before that time if needed.
“I’d appreciate frequent feedback from you to see how I’m doing and where I can improve.”
This makes the manager a partner and a coach and holds them accountable.
Make a point to stay in close touch informally with short office drop-bys, a smile, a wave. The more closely you stay in contact with your manager, the better.
Ask your preceptor for at least daily feedback to evaluate your progress.
Informally, at the end of each shift, ask for specific feedback.
“Now I was working on my time management today, can you give me feedback on how I did?” or “Can you tell me what went well today and what I could have done differently?”
This gives you timely feedback, and is also laying the groundwork for your next manager meeting. If your preceptor simply says you did “fine” four shifts in a row, it would be difficult for the manager to refute that, as you have officially received positive performance feedback.
Transfer to Another Unit
Sometimes nurses with perceived performance problems are transferred elsewhere as a means of transferring a perceived problem off of their unit.
But sometimes a transfer to a new unit or a different shift can be a good thing. It can provide a fresh start with a new group of coworkers.
You may come to realize that the problem isn’t you, but the work environment. Maybe there’s a lack of support, or bullying, or some other form of a toxic environment.
Some work environments are selectively toxic, meaning toxic to new grads in particular.
Toxic environments do not magically right themselves and become supportive wonderful work environments.
Once you realize you are in a toxic environment, then the only thing to do is to strategically plan your exit.
Important Final Note
Remember, a warning is NOT the end of the world, and you are not alone. Many nurses receive them at some point in their career. I have.
To be more exact, I was Suspended. When you are disciplined, you have to respond and then recover…and then move forward.
I recommend StaffGarden to get you started with your e-portfolio (online resume). They help nurses find jobs for free. Register with them and they will get you in on exclusive hiring events. I know them personally and they rock enough for me to partner with them as an affiliate. Meaning I only sponsor products and services that I believe help nurses, and they’re on my Recommend List 🙂
Until next time friend,
Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth career column at allnurses.com for all kinds of entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question Or visit me at bsntomsn.org and StaffGarden where I also blog. Buzzzzzz…I’m a busy little bee !