I find when working with families, that most people don’t know how to be a great boss. They are afraid to talk to their caregiver employees like a manager would because they are afraid their support workers will quit. Often, this way of ‘managing’ creates a power vacuum that the caregiver may fill. If that happens, your employee has just become the boss and assumed your responsibilities! That can make for some really ugly situations.
I have been lucky and have had managerial roles for most of my working life, from being a camp counselor to a shift supervisor and quality inspector in the US Navy to managing the production floor of an electronics company. While I am not a manager at my current job, I am the employer of (currently) 4 support workers for my son.
In previous articles, I have addressed all the ways you would want your caregivers to act while on the job. Now, I would like to help you be a great boss for your team. And no, it’s not about being their best friend.
Great bosses will have…
One of the first ways you can be a great boss is by having open and honest communication with your staff. You can do this in various ways such as:
Having a schedule written up at least 2 weeks in advance
When creating a work schedule, 4 weeks is better, but a minimum of 2 weeks will work. This gives your support workers time to plan their own appointments, events, and get-togethers without having to arrange to get time off of work.
When the pay period is over and you need to verify timesheets, don’t put it off. Block out time in your schedule. Set up a reminder on your phone, or put an appointment in your calendar. This way you will have time to focus on the timesheets and approve them in a timely manner, instead of waiting until the last minute. Unpaid workers are unhappy workers.
Communication about job performance
It is very important to let a worker know how well they are doing on the job. Everyone wants to feel that they are doing a great job and making a difference. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, you could just say, “Thank you for the great job you did yesterday.”
Saying the good stuff is pretty easy, but it can be more difficult when things have not been going so well. It can be hard to start that conversation. If something didn’t go quite the way it should have in terms of caring for my son, I usually start by saying something like, “That didn’t go quite as planned. I would like to talk with you about what we can change to make (XYZ) better next time.”
If you want to go a little further, you can break out a performance evaluation. I find that performance evaluations are a little less personal so if you have a hard time having tough conversations with your staff, try a performance evaluation next time.
An alternative would be to hand a blank performance evaluation to your support worker and have them evaluate themselves. I tend to find that people are a lot harder on their performance than I am.
The biggest takeaway would be, don’t let your emotions take control. A great boss remains calm and in control at all times. If you aren’t in control of your emotions, postpone the conversation until you are. If you are too emotional, you will cross over into unprofessional territory and the conversation will only go from bad to worse and accomplish nothing. Criticism needs to be constructive and actionable.
A back up plan
Whether you are fully staffed, or short-staffed, know what your backup plan is before you need it. Whether someone calls in sick, has a doctor’s appointment, or quits, be prepared. Your backup plan could be having another staff member cover the shift, or it could be turning to your natural supports such as friends, family, or neighbors. Unfortunately, I am my own backup plan, which is why I am currently working for my son from 10pm to 6 am 7 days a week. My backup plan is not a good backup plan but it is the only one I have right now.
Great bosses will have clear expectations
Just because someone has been a support worker for years, doesn’t mean that they are going to automatically know what you need them to do on day one. It is on you to have clearly defined expectations and provide everything they are going to need to do their job effectively, from training to equipment.
Training and delegation
When I hire a new support worker, I am working pretty closely with them for at least the first 3 days, depending upon their experience. I am training them on every aspect of their job, from how to best support my son, to what my goals for him are, to where all the supplies are kept.
It is also a requirement in our state, due to his high medical needs, that anyone that I hire, has to be delegated (trained) by a delegation nurse. It is up to me to schedule that training as soon as possible after their start date. I usually try to get it scheduled sometime during their first week.
Training can be whatever you want it to be and don’t be afraid to do refreshers as needed. I am currently in the middle of rounding up Youtube videos that I think would be helpful for my staff. I may even create a couple of videos myself on a private Youtube channel if I can not find videos already made.
My son has a tracheostomy and my staff needs to know how to replace it in the case of an emergency. I stole a teddy bear from my youngest son that has a hole in its neck. That is our practice dummy and we all practice changing trachs at least once a month.
Having a plan in place for any type of emergency is great information to go over with your support workers. There are many types of emergency plans you may want to have in place, such as:
- How to recognize a medical emergency – What to do in the case of a medical emergency – Where the 911 emergency plan is posted (information they will need to share with 911 such as your address, your loved ones major diagnosis, etc.).
- Escape routes for your home-where the meet up place is outside your home.
- What to do in case of a car accident when transporting your loved one.
- What to do in the case of a natural disaster.
Supplies and equipment
When we hire a support worker for ourselves or a loved one, we need to provide all the supplies and equipment they will need to do the job effectively. If they will be sanitizing high-touch areas, you will need to make sure that they have the cleaning supplies needed. If they will be providing bathing, incontinence care, or any kind of personal care, make sure they know where you keep the supplies for those tasks. Be sure to let them know how you want them to communicate with you when they are getting low on those supplies.
If the caregiver is going to be helping someone who is 50+ pounds and isn’t 100% mobile on their own, having the proper lifting equipment is a must. A gait belt, a Hoyer lift, or an overhead lift system will be needed to prevent any on-the-job injuries. You worked hard to hire this worker, let’s keep them safe on the job!
Support worker handbook
The number one thing I recommend having in place for your staff is a Support Worker Handbook. This is a handbook that you create that is going to have everything in it that they will need to know in order to do their job effectively.
Person Centered Information
In this section, include important information about the person they will be supporting such as: likes, dislikes, what people admire about them, how to best support them, and what their hopes, dreams, and goals are.
Since I have 3 shifts of workers for my son, I have created task lists specific to each shift. I have created laminated checklists that layout each task that must be done. As they are done, the person doing them will initial and date. Some of these tasks are daily, some weekly, and some monthly
Protocols & procedures
If there are special procedures and/or protocols in place for your loved one, be sure to go over that with your staff. Including these in your Support Worker Handbook is always a good idea so they can reference the information as needed.
Protocols could be: PICA, oxygen, feeding, seizure, etc.
Procedures could be: feeding pump, g-tube care, tracheostomy care, distilling water, etc.
Great bosses will provide a safe & professional work environment
As the employer of caregivers, our home has now become a professional work environment. As a work environment, we need to ensure that we are providing a safe and respectful place for our staff. Here are some suggestions to consider.
Open door policy
Yes, have the traditional open-door policy so that your staff can feel safe asking you questions anytime. Also have an open door policy if they are going to be providing support to your loved one in a bedroom, for example.
Most of my son’s care happens in his room. Because of that, the door to his room must remain open at all times. Because I now work at home, I can hear everything that goes on in his room. If need be, I can always take a quick peek into the room to see if anything going on that I need to be aware of, such as seizures.
Okay, this one made the list because of my husband. He is the coffee drinker in the family and has a Keurig machine. He doesn’t have a problem with the staff using the machine, but if someone breaks the machine so that he doesn’t get his morning cup of joe, things are going to get ugly. It is now part of my training program to walk through how to properly use the Keurig.
Regardless of whether it’s a washer, dryer, or coffee pot, make sure your staff knows how to use everything and what products to use with it. Don’t assume they know.
My staff has lots of equipment and tools that they have to clean as part of their daily tasks. In the procedure portion of the Support Worker Handbook, I put, in writing, exactly what product they need to use when cleaning each item. I will also walk them through, step by step, how I want them to clean everything when I am training them.
What’s on TV
When we have support workers in our home, we need to be aware of what is on TV. We need to make sure that what is playing is PG or PG-13. Our support workers do not need to be exposed to offensive language, scantily clad bodies, and steamy adult scenes while on the clock.
Great bosses will be…
- Clear about expectations
- Have a positive attitude
- Grateful (but not desperate)
- Will practice self care (helps with items 1-9!)
Great bosses won’t…
- Micromanage – train them properly and let them do their jobs. If you have to babysit them, something is wrong, either with your training or with them. You don’t have time, and shouldn’t have to babysit staff.
- Be buddies
- Have inappropriate relationships with their staff
- Be rude
- Be physically or emotionally abusive
- Take advantage of staff
- Be passive aggressive – if you have something to say, say it. Nicely and professionally though
- Put up with bad behavior
- Put up with staff belittling other staff
The worst boss you ever had, DON’T be them!
I don’t claim to be a great boss but I try, and that is the most anyone can ask. When I had my first managerial position, I was not a good boss. I got the job done, which was to supervise a team of 3-7 people, but I was the boss in name only.
Nowadays, I am much better, but still a work in progress. I try to treat everyone equally, be clear in my expectations, have protocols, procedures, and task lists in place so that everyone knows what to do when. I am friendly with my staff but I try to keep things from getting too personal. We might be friendly now, but who knows, I may have to fire them tomorrow. Do I really want to fire a friend?
If you are having a hard time figuring out how to manage your caregivers, hopefully, this article will be of use to you. I want you to be the greatest boss out there! When in doubt, picture the worst boss you ever had, and try to do the opposite of what they would do. If you wouldn’t want your boss to treat you a certain way, don’t treat your employees like that. As the saying goes, “Do unto others”.
Performance evaluation templates: