Emotional Control – The Nursing Home Leader’s Lost Attribute

One of the most difficult things I had to learn early on in my career is to control my emotions.  Emotional control, emotional maturity, whatever you want to call it, is one of the single most important things that will determine your success or failure.  I firmly believe that it was the realization of this fact early on that helped propel me toward success.

How many times has one of your staff members brought you some information on another staff member, a family member, or a situation which really upset you and caused you to take some sort of action, make a phone call, reprimand an employee …before you got all the facts?  Then, later, you learned that you overreacted because you didn’t have the full story.  Happened to you?  Well, it’s happened to me plenty.

When I was first starting out in nursing home administration, this little scenario played out over and over again until I finally learned that I didn’t like looking stupid when all the facts were layed on the table.  I was lucky enough to also realize it’s important to learn not only from my own mistakes but from the mistakes of others…from the mistakes of my superiors.  I watched leader after leader go through the same thing.  They get one bit of information and completely blow it out of proportion before the rest of the story comes along.

This type of thing goes on all the time.  Administrators and department managers can be found reprimanding staff in the hallways in front of their coworkers. I have seen employees get discliplined when they actually did not deserve it.  I have seen some pretty ruthless troublemaking staff members “tattle” on another employee they didn’t like, only their version was much worse than the truth.  I have seen administrators and DONs get “set up.”  I have read many a write-up in an employee file where it was obvious that all the facts were not taken into consideration.  I have even seen perfectly good systems in the nursing home changed because someone couldn’t keep their emotions in check.  I have seen many instances where good emotional control was not used.

I remember having one boss flip the conference table over in the morning meeting.  Wow!  Talk about keeping things interesting!  I had another boss chase an employee out the door after the employee was rude with him.  As funny as it sounds now, at the time, I didn’t know what to think.    However, I did notice what the rest of the staff said about these incidents.  They lost all respect for the administrator, the leader of the facility.  When this happens, the administrator usually does not stay long afterward.

People will try to bait you.  Absolutely, they will.  These are the dangerous people in your organization. They can create havoc and they will prey on those with weak emotional control.  They like to see you get riled up!

I have come up with some simple rules to help guide me through situations where in the past I might have made a mistake because of my emotions.

  • Never make a decision based on your emotions.  If you’re still upset, delay the decision.
  • Never discipline an employee in public.
  • Don’t discipline employees while you’re fuming mad with them.
  • Never yell at your employees.
  • Always remember, there are usually 3 sides to every story – this person’s, the other person’s, and the truth.
  • Get the facts.
  • Not every decision has to be made immediately.  Some need to be thought about overnight.
  • Never argue with a resident.  There’s no winning.
  • Never argue with a family.  Simply tell them the facts and let them know what you’re required to do.
  • Don’t be “THAT GUY” – you know the one who loses his cool, threatens everyone with termination, makes life miserable, everyone comes to work in fear of his manic condition expecting a psychotic breakdown, staff, residents, and family alike can’t stand him, and he usually has to supplement this emotionally out of control life with drugs or alcohol.
  • Learn from your mistakes, because they will still occur.
  • Think about how you want to be thought of.  When your staff see you, what do they think?

“Here’s someone who has it together – strong leader, calm, confident, professional, makes the right decisions.  I am glad I work for someone like that.”


“Here’s is a crazy person who I can’t stand to be around much less work for.  Who hired this clown?  He’s so unprofessional!”

I suggest that each of us strive for better emotional control.  We’ll make better decisions, have less stress, and be more successful than the alternative.  And, when you can control your own emotions, you’ll be better able to control other areas of your life.  Think about it.

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4 Responses to “Emotional Control – The Nursing Home Leader’s Lost Attribute”

  • Whenever there is any doubt as to what to say, don’t say anything. I find the best solution to foot in mouth disease is to think first and allow the moment to cool down!

  • Mark on

    Agreed, HT!

  • lpn on

    I am a nurse in long term care with 8 years experience at the same facility. Our DON is now our Administrator and has nobody to hold her back from the insanity. She takes whatever is told to her as the truth. It must be true, someone came and told her that it was true. Last week she came to me and my partner on the floor with an “education” on how to handle family complaints. It was reported to her that we were yelling from behind the nurses station for a family member to call the corporate compliance line with their complaint. She was so sure that we had done it that she had already prepared the paper for us to sign without talking to either of us. I loved the look on her face when she was told that I had taken a vacation day that day and was not even in the building. I wish she would read this article.

  • Mark on

    Sounds like she needs to read it!! Thanks for your comment. Hopefully, she will learn…or maybe someone will print this off and anonymously place it under her door!


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