What keeps you awake at night?

What keeps you awake at night?


What keeps you awake at night?” True tales of the midnight shift

I was asked this question by a consulting firm, hired to identify improvements in our different service areas.  What a great question! Well, besides getting calls at all hours of the day and night, the gut issue for me is always “I don’t know, that I don’t know.”  That’s the biggest reality for many of us in the human service and service delivery industry.

When your service is for vulnerable populations of people that may be non-verbal, have significant cognitive impairment, staffing 24/7 every day of the year, you often don’t know, that you don’t know.

Let me illustrate: Some years ago I received a call from one of my executives informing me of an incident that occurred on the previous night’s shift. I could tell from the tone of her voice there was a big problem she was going to share. I asked her to tell me the story from the beginning.

She began to share with me the events of the previous evening that occurred. Scheduled overnight staff arrived at 11 pm. According to the 3 pm to 11 pm staff, all of the residents were in bed asleep when he left. At 7 AM the morning staff arrived.  It looked like a crime scene! The overnight staff’s car was there.  Blood covered the driveway and the back of the car. The arriving staff member immediately called the sheriff and then the executive director before entering the house.

The sheriff and deputies arrived within minutes with guns drawn. They decided to enter the house through the garage. When they opened the door, sitting against the wall was the overnight staff, rifle in his arms and passed out.

The officers were finally able to get him awake from his drunken stupor. Fortunately, this incident was not a “worst case scenario.”  The staff had shot a deer in the middle of the night and put the deer in his trunk leaving the remnants on the driveway! This is just one of many true stories I could share.

The reality is we don’t know what goes on when we are not on site. We simply don’t know that we don’t know.

No doubt about it; people are any company’s biggest asset and the biggest liability.  Solutions?

Two suggestions:  One is having someone from your management team make unannounced visits at all hours as well as all the days of the week. Employees expect to see management from 9a-5p Monday through Friday. Do we typically show up in the middle of the night on a Saturday?  The element of the unexpected visits adds both credibility and value to the staff and their work (they matter!) as well as hands on, line-of-sight experience for management.  Opening better lines of communication and lessening risk for both employees and the company creates a win/win environment.

Secondly, ASK questions of your staff and have the staff feel comfortable enough to ASK you. Most management teams have MANY years of experience and are very happy to share those “out of the box” experiences!  They enjoy helping prepare staff for the risk of providing 24 hour care. Many times, we will know what you may not because we’ve experienced it.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Maya Angelou

People are one of the most important value drivers for any company!


If you need help with leadership and team development for your team, give us a call.  Let us help with “what keeps you awake at night!

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