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My master’s thesis was a thinly disguised, and self-serving, case for why an experienced medical social worker would make an ideal hospital manager.

This was the eighties with my early research papers painstakingly typed out on second hand IBM Selectric typewriter and liberally shellacked with whiteout.  Although my final work was saved on a true floppy disc for an Apple IIC, my motivation had not slackened:  to end my seemingly endless dues paying and be promoted to lead my department.  My efforts, amazing to me still, actualized with my promotion to supervisor just months prior to my graduation.

I certainly miss those days when hard work, a willingness to work whenever and wherever, combined with a wide-eyed optimism, opened doors.

Tempered by life-enriching experiences as a father of two sons and having been a state YMCA counselor, I wanted to lead by helping others actualize their goals.  My plan was to meet with each of my staff members to talk about what they wanted, what I needed from them, and how we could work together to create goals.  I reasoned that we’d provide each other feedback, support, and respect and build a better department.  As an act of solidarity, I would continue to keep some daily clinical responsibility and carry the on-call pager for weekday evenings and all weekend, every third week.

Although feedback from my staff felt I was on the right track, I clearly missed a very critical target of my efforts that, I think, is common among us promoted from within a department.  I neglected to pay attention to the needs of my boss and his goals.  This is not a case of not asking my boss on a regular basis:  “How are you doing?” but a failure to ask questions of substance and then sincerely search for opportunities for a meaningful dialogue.


Consider these openings that beg for more than a one-word response and the follow-up questions:

-“Tell me about your committee work on the new initiative?”

-“Is there something I could do to help?”

-“Is my performance meeting your financial goals for my department?”

-“Do you have some ideas on what I could try?”

Maybe these initial probings won’t produce results, but persist and eventually your boss will remember your interest and will seek you out.

You owe it to your career to put as much effort into keeping your job as you did to get it.