You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

August 10, 2011

I’ve been very lucky in my short, five year MT career.  I’ve managed to build a somewhat stable private practice from scratch (with help from Berklee, various networks and Karma), and I’m actually doing my parents proud, making enough money at a job directly related to what I studied in college.  Because I’m friendly and nice (at least I think so…) and do my job enthusiastically, I’ve gotten additional contracts by word-of-mouth from family members of patients and clients at several different facilites and from people I work with (nurses, unit managers, activities coordinators).  I am grateful for all of this, and I realize it’s not like this for everyone, regardless of the effort.

In the distant past, I gave inches and inches, and someone always took a mile, particularly if they knew about my unhealthy desire to make everyone happy, so, despite my sunny disposition and usual flexibility, I have had to develop an assertive side in order to get what I want, but not everyone is a fan.

Some things I have learned that have helped my work relationships:

Direct and clear communication goes a long way.

If there is a misunderstanding, it’s because of you or someone else.  If the other person is the person signing your checks, and the misunderstanding isn’t a big deal, it’s better to apologize for it and call it a day.

If someone writes you an e-mail with a blatantly incorrect dollar amount for a paycheck, or remaining grant funds, it’s better to call the person and discuss.  E-mail content (especially when someone is emotional) can be misconstrued, which creates bigger issues.

Advanced notice about days off/vacations makes coordinators happy.

Often, calendars are a big part of residential facilities’ activities departments.  If you give your coordinator over a month’s notice about a day off or a vacation, it means they can change it on the calendar and decrease the chance of an oversight.

Follow up about your time off a couple of days beforehand.  When I haven’t done that, I have often found out following my time off, that someone didn’t get “the memo” and gathered a group together thinking I would be there.  No clients want to be disappointed, and no recreation person wants to push thirteen wheelchairs up two ramps and down a hall only to find out that it was all in vain.

Check with your supervisors about changes in your job, instead of dictating.

When you work at a facility, coordinating with activities directors is difficult, and sometimes they won’t be your best friend.  Instead of telling your supervisor what you want your new schedule to be, which can seem disrespectful, have a conversation about it with them, and they will most likely be at least receptive to what you have to say.

If there is an opportunity to supervise MT students or have volunteers come to your groups, let your supervisor know of the opportunity and make sure everyone is on the same page before any extra people come into your work environment.

Being nice and helpful to other staff members means that they’re more likely to help you.

Luckily, I never had very many issues in this department.  I have been nice, friendly and respectful to RCAs, CNAs and aides in my jobs.  I built rapport with them by being clear if they did something inappropriate (walking directly through a circle of occupied chairs when a MT group was happening), but being respectful enough to take them aside and ask them to please walk around the circle next time.  If people were talking loudly, disrupting the group, I would pleasantly let them know that because some residents have trouble hearing, can they please keep their voices down? And I always, ALWAYS validated their frustrations in their very very difficult job.  To help my co-workers out, I took residents to the bathroom and helped them pee (and sometimes more).  I fixed twisted bras and helped old men buckle up belts.  I plucked chin hairs when the ladies were agitated by them, I saw waaaay more boobs and genitalia then I ever EVER wanted to see, but nothing ever compared to the work the aides did.  However, they appreciated my efforts, and were more than happy to, in return, help me transport residents to groups, take residents out of groups, and do various other unpleasant tasks to help me out.

The last, and possibly most important thing that has helped my relationships, has been learning people’s names, and repeating them all the time.  Never be afraid to ask someone what their name is if you have forgotten.  “I’m sorry, remind me of your name?” They may have forgotten your name too.

Learn to say “No.”

There is a limit that all of us hit.  We want to take advantage of opportunities, we really do!  Sometimes, though, the best thing to do is just say “I’m sorry, I can’t.”  We need to take care of ourselves and if we’re overworked and underpaid and doing things unrelated to our job, we’ll all burn out.  And fast.

Last but not least…

Ask and ye shall receive.

When you’re working for a company, you’ll probably get a 2% or 3% raise every year.  When you’re self-employed, you only get a raise (called a cost-of-living increase) when you ask for one.  At some facilities, depending on their budget and your relationship with them, you can just tell them your rates are going up (be fair about the increase), but at some places, I have to ask.  SO…I usually ask for a $5/hour cost-of-living increase every two years.

I have never had someone tell me no.


Every facility, every employee, every job description is different, but my advice above should be universal.  I hope these little nuggets were helpful!

What have you learned in your travels?


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