Category Archives: Academia

Public Relations and the Media

Using a fictitious scenario about an international airline company addressing the media after one of its planes had crashed, I will examine the usefulness and limitations of a crisis communications plan. It is also worthwhile to note that although the messaging is important, the manner in which the message is delivered is also important. Battenberg (2002) lays out a compelling case of which tactics to use and which to abandon when dealing with a media frenzy.

Media Questions

As a member of the media, there are some very specific questions that need to be addressed. For instance, was the crash a result of weather, aircraft maintenance, or was this a terrorism event? In addition, recent layoffs of its mechanics coupled with its aging fleet of aircraft might have contributed to the crash and needs to be addressed. Other employees were laid off in addition to some mechanics. It would be important to know if more experienced members of the flight crew were among the lay offs, as this flight was trans-Atlantic and might require some specialized expertise.

Public Relations Response

According to Coombs (2012) and Fearns-Bank (2011), the response to the media needs to be truthful and humble. The cause of the crash will eventually be determined by the federal investigators, and any assumptions now would be premature. This should be clearly stated to the media along with a statement that every effort to assist in the investigation will be made. In regards to the lay offs, it should be made absolutely clear that, along with our dedication to safety, the lowest performing mechanics and pilots were the ones laid off, keeping the most experienced and skilled mechanics who would never sign off on any unworthy aircraft. An example statement might include: “In our corporate culture of safety, we allow any of our employees to trigger a grounding and complete safety check of any of our aircraft for any reason, even with our recent financial difficulties. If we do not fly safe, then we do not fly.” If the company would ground all similar aircraft for an immediate safety check, it would be helpful to reinforce the ideals of the corporate culture of safety.


As the public relations officer addressing these media concerns, I would be sure to answer these questions as humbly and honestly as possible. I would try to rely on the messaging provided in the crisis communication plan. However, in light of recent financial difficulties and layoffs, the plan may prove partially inadequate, though it will provide, at least, a framework to ensure the messaging is consistent (Coombs, 2012; Fearns-Bank, 2011). Obviously, information will be limited as the crash just occurred; however, the concerns of the recent layoffs and service expansion still need to be addressed. Any assurance of safety that is less than matter-of-fact might not be convincing enough to the flying public (Stevens, Malone, & Bailey, 2005). Fortunately, I am able to cite the impeccable safety record and award-winning corporate excellence and customer service. Additionally, other sections of the communication plan, such as messaging involving lay offs and other financial issues, might prove useful to help the public and the media further understand the company’s dedication to safety, ensuring that any problems identified will be quickly rectified (Coombs, 2012; Stevens, Malone, & Bailey, 2005).

Though the position of defending the corporate image in light of tragedy is not an enviable one, a strong and ethical corporation deserves to enjoy business continuity even after such a tragedy (Stevens, Malone, & Bailey, 2005). Having an effective communication plan in place and utilizing the plan in an honest, humble, and transparent manner can promote the corporate image even while suffering crises (Coombs, 2012; Stevens, Malone, & Bailey, 2005).


Battenberg, E. (2002, December). Managing a media frenzy. Public Relations Tactics, 9(12), 1, 15. Retrieved from

Coombs, W. T. (2012). Ongoing crisis communication: Planning managing, and responding (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fearn-Banks, K. (2011). Crisis communications: a casebook approach (4th ed). New York, NY: Routledge.

Stephens, K. K., Malone, P. C., & Bailey, C. M. (2005). Communicating with stakeholders during a crisis: Evaluating message strategies. Journal of Business Communication, 42(4), 390-419. doi:10.1177/0021943605279057

Crisis Counseling: Senior Management

As a crisis management professional, it would be my job to assess the situation, define the crisis, and develop a plan that would address stakeholder concerns allowing the company to move forward with, hopefully, minimal negative and maximal positive impact to the organizational reputation (Coombs, 2012). The Intel Pentium flaw did not impact Intel’s reputation in 1994 as much as preceding inattention to quality that modeled consumers’ perceptions and production and marketing irregularities that computing insiders were quite aware (Mihaiu, 2001). Even as recently as last year, Intel has been plagued with poorly performing processors (Fontevecchia, 2011). I believe that many of the processor issues were merely a result of being cutting-edge in a fast-paced competitive environment, though Intel’s reputation need not suffer from inattention to that fact. The problem: convincing the CEO that a) there is a crisis, b) this crisis needs to be dealt with (costing money), and c) it needs to be dealt with openly and ethically in order to maximize the reputation of the company.

Previously, as a computer programmer and analyst, I was intimately familiar with Intel line of processors, and I can attest to the overall positive reputation Intel has enjoyed since moving into the consumer computing arena; however, as stated above, the company’s reputation was not always seen in a positive light. Using my familiarity with Intel, my primary suggestion to the CEO regarding the Pentium debacle would be to remain honest and open with external publics while making the situation right. The honesty of the situation should be accepted by many consumers so long as Intel garners a net positive reputation. This net positive should be reinforced with the professed willingness of correcting the situation. The message should be: “We are on the cutting-edge of computing and consistently push the envelop in leaps and bounds, and we cannot always get everything right, but we can make it right… and, we will!”

The CEO, however, may decide that the situation is minimal and not unlike others that the company has faced in the past. Dealing with these issues previously may have created an air of complacency that needs to be countered in order to prevent further cumulative effect on the reputation of Intel. Regardless, as Coombs (2012) points out, if implementing a crisis management plan “improve[s] the situation and benefit[s] the organization, its stakeholders, or both” (p. 125), the situation should be approached and handled as crisis. The ethical dictum of “do the right thing” should provide for, at least, the fundamental guiding principles in responding to any issue, which would help to ensure that negativity is deflected and minimized appropriately. A CEO who has no appreciation of the gravity of the circumstances may need to be reminded of this in order to prod him into action.


Coombs, W. T. (2012). Ongoing crisis communication: planning, managing, and responding. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fontevecchia, A. (2011, January 31). Chip recall hurts Intel’s reputation, tablet fears a bigger problem. Forbes. Retrieved from

Mihaiu, R. (2001, July 3). Intel’s tricks! Retrieved from

Paying for Health Care, Today and Tomorrow

Before delving into the substance of this discussion, I must say that my personal beliefs are contradictory to many globalized health care efforts. Penner (2005) discusses some benefits of discussing and comparing health care economics between various nations. However, as we combine efforts to target specific health concerns across the globe, we lose the ability to innovate, promote evidence-based discussion, and promote the sovereignty of each country involved in the global effort. This globalization of health care deteriorates the ability to compare and contrast best practices of various countries. Unfortunately, most of the published works promote an insidious form of social justice and do not address how globalization efforts reduce the sovereignty of nations and people. Huynen, Martens, and Hilderdink (2005) support this deterioration by promoting a foundation for a global governance structure that would lead to better dissemination and control of globalization efforts.

Campbell and Gupta (2009) directly compare some claims that the U.K. National Health System (NHS) has worse health outcomes than the traditional U.S. model. Though Campbell and Gupta provide evidence disparaging many of these claims, they also seem to provide some insight as to the woes the NHS has recently faced and are working to correct. Under a system promoted by Huynen, Martens, and Hilderdink (2005), we would ultimately lose the comparison between nations as to best practices. The U.S. is currently debating the value of nationalizing health care, and similar arguments are arising based on the inability for interstate comparisons of effective and efficient delivery of health care among the various states.


Campbell, D. & Gupta, G. (2009, August 11). Is public healthcare in the UK as sick as rightwing America claims? The Guardian. Retrieved from

Huynen, M. M. T. E., Martens, P., & Hilderink, H. B. M. (2005). The health impacts of globalisation: a conceptual framework. Globalization and Health, 1, 1-14. doi:10.1186/1744-8603-1-14

Penner, S. J. (2004). Introduction to health care economics & financial management: fundamental concepts with practical applications. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Discussing Cost-Effective Analysis

This week I was directed to provide insight to the cost-effective analysis (CEA) provided by Penner (2004) in A Cost-Effective Analysis for Proposed Alternative Interventions to Post-Procedure Surgical Pain Reduction. Within the CEA, three alternative treatments (guided imagery, hypnosis, and biofeedback) are proposed to reduce post-operative pain. The CEA is used to determine the efficiency that each intervention offers comparably to each of the other two alternatives.

I developed a PowerPoint™ presentation [click here] to provide a summation of the CEA and visually present the information for a quick rationalization of the chosen intervention. I will explain each slide of the PowerPoint™ as it pertains to the CEA.

The Cost-Effective Analysis

The CEA provided by Penner (2004) describes the various costs and benefits of using guided imagery, hypnosis, and biofeedback therapies to reduce post-operative pain (as defined on slide #3), which improves the overall healing process. The objective, as noted on slide #2, is the importance of effective pain control. The author of the CEA concedes that all three interventions similarly meet the therapeutic objective of limiting post-operative pain in a safe and low-risk manner; however, the cost differences are significant.


As provided in the CEA, the most significant tangible benefits, as mentioned above, are providing effective pain management in a safe, low-risk manner. Additionally, and as a result of reducing pain effectively, increased patient satisfaction, better patient compliance, and overall better healing leads to reduced costs associated with post-operative recovery, such as reduced length of stay and reduced need for post-surgical care (e.g. nursing care, physician care, rehospitalization, medications). Slide #4 of the presentation outlines these similar benefits.


The costs of each intervention are significant factors in deciding which intervention to promote. Once the annual cost for each intervention if figured, each of the identified costs are distributed across the expected patient volume of 197 and further distributed over the likelihood of each of three surgical procedures (spinal fusion, total hip replacement, and auto hema stem cell transplant) being performed. Though this is largely unnecessary, it does provide perspective for how the costs will be distributed and raise the overall cost for each surgical procedure performed, as shown on slide #8. The total annual cost for each intervention, as well as the per-patient cost, is outlined on slide #5 and graphed on slides #6 and #7.

The fixed costs for guided imagery include a psychology consultant, a surgery PA coordinator, wages for clerical staff, and training for the surgery PA.

The fixed costs for hypnosis includes a psychologist skilled in hypnotherapy and wages for clerical staff. The amount of resources for hypnosis are significantly less than for guided imagery; however, the intervention is more substantial requiring significantly more hours per week paid (12 for hypnosis vs. 2 for guided imagery).

The fixed costs for biofeedback are more equivalent to, though slightly more than, those of guided imagery. Biofeedback requires a psychology consultant, a surgery PA coordinator, wages for clerical staff, and training for the surgery PA, but the fixed costs for biofeedback also include specific equipment, including skin sensors, two video monitors, VCRs, and carts.

The total identified costs for guided imagery is 32.18% less than biofeedback and 64.56% less than hypnosis.


Based on the CEA, the most cost-effective intervention for impacting and controlling post-operative pain on patients undergoing one of the three surgical procedures outlined is guided imagery. This result is stated on slide #10.


The appropriate management of pain is crucial to patient care. Assuming that the three interventions investigated are equally effective towards the objective of reducing and controlling pain, the cost of each intervention is the deciding factor when considering which of the three interventions to employ. In this case, guided imagery is the most cost-effective intervention and is the recommended intervention, per the CEA.

It is important to understand that these costs will be borne by not one but three different departments – the pain clinic, the orthopedic surgery department, and the patient education department. This cost-sharing removes the burden of providing the intervention from a single department and disperses the burden over the budgets of three different departments.


Penner, S. J. (2004). Introduction to health care economics & financial management: fundamental concepts with practical applications. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Financial Statements:

What to Use, When to Use It

Accounting in health care is very important in order to understand the economic health of the organization. Without understanding the financial status of the organization, directionality of growth and prosperity is certainly in question; however, with financial statements as a guide, one can make informed and logical decisions to develop a strategic plan to direct organizational growth in a fiscally responsible nature.

Ittelson (2009) and Penner (2004) outline the various financial statements and how they are used. I will review three financial statements (the balance sheet, the income statement, and the cash flow statement) and the means to use the values on these statements to provide meaning, through the use of ratio analysis, of the fiscal health of the organization.

Financial Statements

Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is one of two main organizational financial statements. Ittelson (2009) outlines the balance sheet as showing assets = liabilities + worth, in that the value of an organization’s assets (or, what an organization has) is the sum of the organization’s liabilities (or, what is owed) and worth (or, the value of the organization to the owners).

Assets are usually listed on the balance sheet in order of liquidity and include everything valuable within an organization, including cash, accounts receivable, any inventory (included at depreciated value, if applicable), expenses that were prepaid, and any other intangibles that offer intrinsic value to the organization (Ittelson, 2009; Penner, 2004).

Liabilities, according to Ittelson (2009), are listed on the balance sheet as groupings of term (short- and long-term) and include current liabilities (accounts payable, expenses, portions of contracted debt currently payable, and taxes), long-term debt (or, contracted debt payable outside of the bounds of the current statement), and shareholder equity (or, the sum of capital stock value and the amount of retained earnings). The shareholder equity is also the worth of the organization.

By definition, the balance sheet must be balanced in the end with the value of the assets being the total liabilities and equities offset by the shareholder equity. The balance sheet, with this comparison, provides the fixed financial picture of the organization at any particular date.

Income Statement

The income statement, which describes an organization’s profitability, is the other main financial statement of an organization (Ittelson, 2009). The income statement details the value of inputs and expenses required to develop a specific income for a defined period of time; however, according to Ittelson (2009), it does not provide timing on payments or an assessment of how much cash the organization has on hand.

The income statement accounts for the gross margin (net sales vs. cost of goods sold), operating expenses (e.g. sales and marketing, research and development, and general and administrative expenses), interest income, and income taxes to derive net income (Ittelson, 2009; Penner, 2004).

As the organization’s net income increases, reflections of increased assets or decreased liabilities will be seen on the balance sheet. Likewise, this link will also show the reverse to be true as decreased assets or increased liabilities (Ittelson, 2009).

Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement, as noted by Ittelson (2009) and Penner (2004), simply describes the movement, or flow, of cash within the organization. Starting with the amount of cash on hand at the beginning of the reporting period, the cash flow statement tracks how cash is paid and received, such as cash receipts and disbursements, purchases of fixed assets, money borrowed, stock sales, and taxes paid, ending with the amount of cash on hand at the end of the reporting period. However, this statement does not account for receiving inventory or delivering finished products to customers as these would account for non-cash transactions. Only when the organization pays for the inventory or the customer pays for the product would it affect the cash flow statement.

According to Ittelson (2009), the cash flow statement describes the velocity of cash, exclusively, within an organization, and accounts for a portion of the organization’s assets as well as some new liabilities (such as a new mortgage or loan) and old liabilities (debt being paid).

Ratio Analysis

Although the financial statements described above describe the general financial health of an organization, the relationships of particular items within those reports can provide more specific indicators of financial condition (Ittelson, 2009; Penner, 2004). The use of these relationships is called ratio analysis.

Ratio analysis can help to determine factors, such as profitability, liquidity, asset management, and leverage. Ratio analysis can also help to compare various organizations among various industries by using a statement conversion to “common size” (Ittelson, 2009, p. 194), which represents items as percentages of the largest item on each statement.

Profitability, according to Ittelson (2009), is the ability of an organization to generate a return of profit on equity, sales, and assets. The gross margin, as a percentage, is also a profitability ratio analysis.

Liquidity, as opposed to the measure of returning a profit, is a measure of an organization’s ability to maintain a financial cushion and show financial strength.

Asset management ratios are measures of the efficient or inefficient use of assets and the time generally taken from using inputs to receiving payment. According to Ittelson (2009), “asset management ratios provide a tool to investigate how effective in generating profits the [organization’s] investment in accounts receivables, inventory [sic] and fixed assets is” (p. 198).

Leverage, much like liquidity, is a safety measure that describes the organization’s ability to absorb loss and meet obligations. The leverage safety cushion is also referred by Ittleson (2009) as the “equity cushion” (p. 202). Too much leverage is risky, but too little leverage decreases the ability to maximize profit and growth. Leverage is the use of other people’s money to augment the owner’s investment in order to maximize profits.


By using strict accounting guidelines and keeping accurate records, financial statements can be prepared that will provide insight into the financial health of an organization. These statements can help to compare the financial status of the organization at different times or to compare the organization with other organizations. Also, accurate financial statements will help to draw investors, secure lending opportunities, and comply with legal requirements.


Ittelson, T. R. (2009). Financial statements: A step-by-step guide to understanding and creating financial reports (Revised and expanded ed.). Pompton Plains, NJ: Career Press.

Penner, S. J. (2004). Introduction to health care economics & financial management: fundamental concepts with practical applications. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Investment in Capital Improvements

To Buy or Not to Buy, That Is the Question

Outlays for capital improvements can be daunting, whether for a business or within a personal budget. It makes sense to invest in capital improvements when a realistic return on the initial investment can be expected. Computers, motor vehicles, and homes are all good examples of large personal investments that can generate significant returns or provide security that increases stability. In health care, outlays for expensive imaging devices, real property, and specialization programs can generate the same returns or stability to seek returns, especially when resulting from strategic business planning. Penner (2004) describes these outlays, or expenses, “as inputs or costs incurred in the process of producing goods and services” (p. 65). These inputs are designed to enhance existing revenues streams or provide for additional revenue streams.

Although health care budgeting is much more complicated than personal budgeting, the concepts are very similar. Penner (2004) demonstrates various types of budgets that account for many more revenue and expense items than is typically seen in personal budgeting. For instance, a hospital would account for every charge for every patient seen in each department seen. The hospital would also have to account for a number of expenses, such as personnel costs and the cost for each piece of patient care equipment (Penner, 2004). However, budgets can be consolidated and simplified the further they move from direct care (e.g. budget overviews used by the board of directors would not be so specific to account for each patient’s stay; instead, the budget overview would reflect revenues and expenses departmentally with references to the budgets of each specific department).

Recently, I made two large purchases that had to be budgeted: a) a Chevy Suburban (financed) and b) a Harley-Davidson motorcycle (cash). With both purchases, I needed to be sure that I needed the vehicle and I would benefit from the purchase. For the Suburban, because it was financed, required me to budget $500.00 / month; however, the vehicle allows me to get back and forth to work to earn my living, is reliable in all types of weather (important because I am required to report to duty even in severe weather), and maintains a high resale value. This purchase also required me to budget increased fuel costs due to poor fuel economy. The motorcycle purchase, admittedly largely recreational, also required significant forethought and budgeting; however, the excellent fuel economy certainly allows me to offset the Suburban’s fuel consumption during moderate weather. The motorcycle was also priced at a significant discount and requires little maintenance.

Again, the basics of budgeting are the same for business and personal finances; however, business budgets can get fairly complicated fairly quickly. For personal budgeting, the level of complexity is mainly determined by the needs of the individual. Tracking income and monthly bills requires little detail, though planning for a major future purchase or savings goal requires more significant accounting and detail.


Penner, S. J. (2004). Introduction to health care economics & financial management: Fundamental concepts with practical applications. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Mind Your Own Business: Health Care Economics

Regardless of funding levels or overhead, health care must be provided ethically. The goal of the health care industry is to improve health, and unlike other industries, this market is driven not by choice but by need. Other markets perform, according to Friedman and Friedman (1980) and Smith (1910), only when mutual benefit can be achieved, that is, without external force, coercion, or unnatural limitation. Penner (2004) presents the economy of health care representative of many of the ideals that were accepted at the turn of this century. However, the current state of health care economics is the result of the unnatural force of these ideals in attempting to mold the market against natural market pressures, as described in detail and warned against by Friedman and Friedman and Smith.

Health care demand is based on need. Within that need, demand is reflective of pricing. For example, patients do not elect coronary bypass surgery, but if needed, the demand could be reflected by pricing constraints realized in negotiations of hospitals and insurance carriers. In this case, the patient may be transferred to a center that has negotiated reduced rates with the carrier for coronary bypass procedures. Ergo, health care demand is reflective of patient need and is variable only in the context of insurance pricing. It is within this negotiation that the aspects of quality, access, and cost are accounted. Government policy, however, has a negative and downward effect on these negotiations. If health care institutions are perceived to be able to provide the same services at discounted prices for government payors, then the institution should be able to provide these same services to private payors for the same or similar cost. This cost adjustment conversely affects quality and access.

Penner (2004) makes a logically flawed argument in respect to regulation arguing that increases in skilled nursing facility (SNF) safety regulations created a demand for more nursing assistants; however, this is an increased input to be provided by the SNF, not an output to be demanded by the patient. The cost will be borne by the private insurance payor, ultimately, and not the regulatory agency or the patient, which increases premiums decreasing access to private health insurance. Regulations negatively impact the relationship between supply/demand, quality, access, and cost. This is not to say that safety should not be a concern, as it is one of the few areas that I agree should be regulated, though, minimally.

Penner (2004) goes on to state “one role of government is to intervene in cases of market failure” (p. 21), using the pharmaceutical industry as an example. Unfortunately, with the focus on the new and significant health care and health insurance legislation and regulation, many academic discussions surrounding health care economics are now outdated and trivial. Without entertaining a constitutional debate, recently, governmental involvement has shown to have a negative effect on the health care industry actually causing market failures instead of alleviating them. Recent over-regulation by government on the pharmaceutical industry has resulted in a significant and dangerous shortage of life-saving emergency medications (Malcolm, 2012). This economic constraint will lead to higher demands of other, inferior, medications and increase the price, effectually increasing cost and decreasing both access and quality. This effect is also seen in the emergency medical services when states fix the price that can charged to users leaving the municipal taxpayer to face tax increases or decreases in access to emergency services and the quality of the services delivered (American Ambulance Association, 2008). Over-regulating an industry without regard to survivability is inefficient and unethical, limiting access and quality while increasing costs.

Insurance companies have sought to minimize their exposure to the rising costs of health care (Penner, 2004). By developing common sense incentives, insurers can advocate for their customers financially while expressing desire for optimal outcomes. By maximizing consumer and provider choice, these incentives can be used as natural pressures within the market to improve upon cost, quality, and access (Penner, 2004). This realization, according to Penner (2004), resulted in the emergence of the health maintenance organization (HMO) — the first widely accepted form of managed care. Unfortunately, HMOs faced scrutiny in the 1990’s and later augmented business models to reflect newer preferred provider organizations (PPO) and point-of-service (POS) plans. PPO and POS plans were created to promote the more inexpensive use of general providers and those providers that have negotiated fees. Unfortunately, Penner writes, the pressures of these PPO and POS plans on the consumer limit choice within the market; however, the consumer still has a choice of insurance carrier, which minimizes the pressure faced within each plan. This freedom is not expressed in governmental plans, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

As health care costs rise, the writings of Friedman and Friedman (1980) and Smith (1910) would suppose that we lessen regulation within the industry, allow new and novel approaches to insurance paradigms, and create an environment with as little unnatural market pressures as possible in order to allow natural market pressures to ensure equitable cost, access, and quality through competition


American Ambulance Association. (2008). EMS structured for quality: Best practices in designing, managing and contracting for emergency ambulance service. Retrieved from

Friedman, M. & Friedman, R. D. (1980). Free to choose: a personal statement. Retrieved from

Malcolm, A. (2012, January 4). Vast web of federal regulation causing drug shortages. Investor’s Business Daily. Retrieved from

Penner, S. J. (2004). Introduction to health care economics & financial management: Fundamental concepts with practical applications. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Smith, A. (1910/1957). The wealth of nations (Vol. 1). Retrieved from

Human Resource Challenges

Human resource management is a comprehensive support paradigm for both the employer (and his or her agents) and the employee. Most of the discussion regarding human resources revolves around problem employees and how human resources management can be used to deal with them. This week, however, we get to appreciate how human resources management can be effective at mediating employee concerns. Presented with two scenarios involving employee concerns, we will choose one and explore the fundamentals of human resources management as it relates to the challenges presented.

Throughout the past two weeks, Paul, a physical therapist, has been receiving in his work e-mail inbox some disturbing messages from an unknown sender. Many of the messages are sexual in nature and some even refer to Paul’s coworkers. Paul has reluctantly confided in the head of the organization’s HR department to help him with the issue. He is very embarrassed about the situation and is concerned that an investigation might jeopardize his relationships with coworkers and even his position with the organization.

As internet technology and systems management is a forte or mine, it is difficult for me not to take the easy path by selecting scenario 1. For this scenario, Paul would only have to enlist his manager in engaging the IT department to track the emails, which is a very simple process (most people do not understand how much information is generated in server logs and attached to email messages). The sender of the offensive emails would be found out and dealt with, and/or future messages of this type would be blocked by the email server, and Paul would no longer be distracted by these offensive emails.

However, as I stated previously, I prefer a challenge and will review the problems and some potential solutions regarding scenario 2.

For the past year, the nurses’ union at Good Health Hospital has been meeting to discuss grievances against Good Health’s management. In particular, the nurses are concerned with the way managers treat them; many feel overworked, undercompensated, and underappreciated. They have recently submitted a proposal to Good Health’s executives asking for better management practices, an increase in nurse staffing, and better compensation and benefits for nurses. The executives have enlisted the help of Good Health’s HR department in addressing the concerns in the proposal; they are concerned about budget constraints as well as the possibility of a nurses’ union strike.

Scenario 2 involves organized employees threatening a work stoppage if, at least, some of their concerns are not mitigated. Work stoppages, or strikes, are detrimental to any organization. The nurses’ union at Good Health Hospital have presented grievances that are typical in health care (Fallon & McConnell, 2007). It is a wonder why these concerns were not identified early. As Fallon and McConnell (2007) point out, “the best time to address a problem is before it becomes a problem” (p. 281). In this case, effective management would have identified these concerns early and developed a plan, perhaps integrating potential solutions through the organizations strategic plan, and prevented the growing acrimonious and bitter discontent amongst the rank and file employees. Though Fallon and McConnell discuss various types of organizational leadership, I prefer to lead with libertarian values in mind; ergo, both respect and responsibility must be virtues of both employee and employer, and both must work hard for the other. Fallon and McConnell discuss how trust and mutual respect lends to an effective, efficient, and rewarding work environment. Unfortunately, in scenario 2, it seems that we are beyond mitigation and prevention and, legally and contractually, they must be addressed.

Good Health Hospital administrators should take heed to the complaints noted in the nurses’ grievances. Although many managers and adminstrators dislike unions, ignoring them is not the answer. In this case, the concerns are probably real. Fallon and McConnell (2007) tell how information pertinent to employer-employee relations does not typically transcend the ranks, and this set of grievances may be the first indication to upper management that there is an issue. Still, the hospital adminstration, depending on the organizational schema (for-profit, not-for-profit, public, private, et al.), has a responsibility to its stakeholders and must ensure both operational feasibility and cost containment. Answering to these grievances could jeopardize one or both of these. A work stoppage would be detrimental to the operation and prove costly while meeting the demands in full would unrealistically obliterate the profit margin (note: the demands are not listed within the scenario; however, we can infer that they are significant).

If I were in the position of dealing with these grievances, I would, first, separate the demands by genre: safety and ethics, emotion, and economics. First and foremost, any ethical or safety concerns should be dealt with immediately, anyway. By identifying and dealing with these issues first, the perception of a receptive and action-oriented administration is gained. The solutions for these issues can also be highly visible and can be made to work for the organization by way of press releases outlining improvements in safety if not mere visible changes in the work environment and culture. Second, addressing emotional issues, such as poor treatment by managers and the perception of a lack of appreciation, can be solved by the employees, themselves. For instance, a “grade your manager” program might be cost neutral and provide some insight for future coaching. This would also give a sense of the prevailing attitude of the employees in the way comment cards give businesses a sense of the clientele. Another way of addressing emotion is to direct each manager to inquire of their staff periodically about any minor concerns they might have. This would give a sense of open communications, something that appears to be lacking. Finally, it is time to address the economical concerns.

Many times, the pay and benefits that are offered to unionized workers are stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement. These, fortunately (or, unfortunately) cannot be changed until the contract is renegotiated. Ethically and respectfully, the compensation package should hover near market levels. Fortunately for Good Health Hospital, we have already addressed a few concerns, so we have latitude in addressing the economic issues. As Fallon and McConnell (2007) state, working conditions are just as important as financial incentives, and employees may sacrifice pay and benefits for a decent working environment.

Regardless of the hospital’s ability to meet the nurses’ demands, I would insist on meeting with them, out of respect, to hear their concerns; however, the meeting would be official and the labor relations attorneys would be present to ensure compliance to the National Labor Relations Board regulations.


Fallon, L. F. & McConnell, C. R. (2007). Human resources management in health care: principles and practice. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Establishing S.M.A.R.T. Goals

“Employees learn better when they actually become involved in the process” (Fallon & MCConnell, 2007, p. 192), so what better way to grow than to define the process?!

Meyer (2006) outlines a methodology, referred to as S.M.A.R.T., of developing goals and a plan to attain them. The S.M.A.R.T. goal methodology that Meyer describes is reflected in the acronym of the name: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. However, as Rubin (2002) points out, the acronym is dynamic and variable to include any number of variations: simple, specific, sensible, significant; meaningful, motivating; acceptable, achievable, action-oriented, accountable, agreed, actionable, assignable; realistic, reviewable, relative, rewarding, reasonable, results-oriented, relevant; timelines, time-frame, time-stamped, tangible, timely, time-based, time-specific, time-sensitive, timed, time-scaled, time-constrained, time-phased, time-limited, time-driven, time-related, time-line, toward what you want, and truthful. Even more dynamic, as Rubin points out, some add “efficacy” and “rewarding” making S.M.A.R.T. goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals!

Regardless, however, of the actual mnemonic, the methodology represents the continuum of goal-analysis, goal-setting, and goal-attainment in a systematic manner that is tangible and results-oriented. The philosophy remains true and valid.

Setting a Goal

In the past, one of my goals was to obtain a college degree. I knew that I was intelligent and should have no problem, otherwise, attaining this goal, but life always seemed to place obstacles in my path. One day, not so long ago and with chiding from my father, I decided to put a date to this goal: December, 2012. I was lacking this one important motivational step for so long, but because I finally made my goal time-sensitive, I was finally able to measure my progress in a specific manner. I feel that because I developed a realistic time-line to attain this goal, I will obtain my bachelors degree this year.

Now that I am close to completing one goal, it makes sense to reflect and determine my next set of goals, but how can I apply the S.M.A.R.T. methodology of setting one? Reviewing Meyer (2006) and Rubin (2002), I find that, first, I need to conceptually understand that goals should be simple and realistic. Next, my goal needs to somehow be constrained by time so that it is measurable and my progress is quantifiable. Further, my goal, itself, needs to be motivating and rewarding.

My goal cannot be something as simple as make more money or be a better person. These goals are broader, I feel, than the methodology is designed for. However, breaking one of these goals down to measurable steps seems to be preferred. Instead of make more money, a more specific goal might be to earn a six-figure income by a set date.


According to Meyer (2006), the first question is if this goal is specific. Yes. If I continue to earn any less than $100,000 in a single year, I have not met my goal.


The next question: Is it measurable? For the same reasons that it is specific, it is measurable. Additionally, my progress is measurable by the year-to-date column of my paycheck, which should increase towards my ultimate goal amount.


Is this goal attainable? As I take stock of my current income and skill set with the addition of my bachelors degree and other certifications and licenses, I do feel that a six-figure income is attainable.


In order to be a realistic goal, others in my profession must have attained this goal, or I must be willing to change professions. I am hard-pressed to leave the emergency medical services, and there are a number of positions available within the emergency medical services that earn six-figures. These positions are mostly administrative in nature, but I feel that I have the experience to start considering these positions as realistic.


Setting a time-frame for completion of my last major goal underscores the importance of this step, but it is my weakness, and I acknowledge that. However, as I expect to obtain my bachelors degree later this year, realistically, I would have to give myself another year or two to find a position for which I could apply. I would, then, need another year in order to actually earn the income. The 2015 tax year seems appropriate, though unrealistic, perhaps. Still, I will set this time-line and reconsider each objective of my goal as 2015 draws closer.


Setting a goal is a difficult task. It is sometimes difficult to look to the future, and often times, we are haunted by our failings in the past. Using a methodology, such as S.M.A.R.T., can help us to reflect on realistic and meaningful goals that can ultimately help us work toward the more obscure long-term goals, like being affluent or saving the world.


Fallon, L. F. & McConnell, C. R. (2007). Human resource management in health care: principles and practice. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Meyer, P. J. (2006). Attitude is everything. Retrieved from smartgoals.pdf

Rubin, R. S. (2002). Will the real SMART goals please stand up? The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 39(4), 26-27.

Burnout: “What a Star—What a Jerk”

The character, Andy Zimmerman, in Cliffe’s (2001) fictitious hypothetical is obviously intelligent and hard-working; however, he appears to be suffering from “burnout”. Korczak, Huber, and Kister (2010) describe the contemporary definition of burnout as essentially equated to work-related syndrome, which is characterized by “emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation [sic] or cynicism and reduced professional efficacy” (p. 3); however, the authors acknowledge a plethora of symptoms, definitions, and theories in the literature and call for standardization for improved diagnosis and research. Maslach and Leiter (2010) describe burnout as “[reflecting] an uneasy relationship between people

and their work” (p. 44). In the case of Andy Zimmerman, it appears that he has depersonalized his work, evidenced by his egoism and rage towards his co-workers. Also, from reading the fictitious account, assumptions can be made: 1) Andy Zimmerman did not start his job by acting in such manner; therefore, this is a change that Jane Epstein would not be privy, and 2) Andy Zimmerman may feel that his work is falling from his own personal standard and finds blame in others, which goes towards his egoism. In all, these might account for some level of reduced professional efficacy. However, as Korczak et al. discuss, there is no valid diagnostic criteria of burnout and application is difficult as burnout has strong correlation with depression and alexithymia (see footnote 1), each of which could contribute to Andy Zimmerman’s attitudes and outbursts.

Employees who are suffering burnout or other psychosocial maladies have a negative and detrimental effect on other co-workers (Maslach and Leiter, 2010; Korczak, Huber, & Kister, 2010). In the case of Andy Zimmerman, his relationship with his work environment is certainly reducing the efficacy of others. Is it possible that Andy Zimmerman’s tirades are the only reason that he is the top performer? Could it be that culling inappropriate behavior would more than make up for the loss of one man’s productivity?

According to Fallon and McConnell (2007), many employees that are suffering personal problems to the degree that they interfere with work are able to benefit from managers pointing out how their work has been suffering, but employees that are identified as possibly suffering from burnout syndrome (or, any major personal problem that adversely effects work) should be referred to the employee assistance program, if at all possible. Fallon and McConnell go further to state, and rightly so, that managers should not give advice on personal matters but only provide a means of rectifying professional performance. Managers are poorly equipped to handle counseling of a personal nature. Instead, Fallon and McConnell demonstrate the utility of the progressive discipline model to both educate an employee about his or her responsibilities and allow him or her to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, however, behavior problems sometime end with termination, though “experts note that when an employee is released for a serious infraction, the problem has been corrected by removing its cause” (Fallon & McConnell, 2007, p. 260).

In regards to Jane Epstein’s troubles with Andy Zimmerman, double standards of employee conduct cannot exist (Fallon & McConnell, 2007). Jane must do something to quell the growing rift within her department. First, Jane must document everything in regards to Andy (Fallon & McConnell, 2007). This, most of all, will support the premise that Jane used all possible solutions before considering termination. Next, Jane should ensure that Andy understands that the behavior will not be tolerated any longer. This could, perhaps, be coupled with a statement referencing the employee assistance program or other route of anger management counseling. Finally, Jane might consider that the work being performed is not well matched for Andy. Mismatched work is a significant cause of burnout, and if this is suspected, Jane could discuss the potential for professional growth with Andy, which might alleviate the outbursts (“Don’t take your people for granted,” 2010; Maslach & Leiter, 2010). Finally, if Andy continues to fail to conform to the department policies, he must be terminated. Jane needs to view her responsibilities to the department over any she might feel towards a single employee (Fallon & McConnell, 2007).


Cliffe, S. (2001). What a star — what a jerk. Harvard Business Review, 79(8), 37–48.

Don’t take your people for granted. (2010). Healthcare Executive, 25(4), 40.

Fallon, L. F. & McConnell, C. R. (2007). Human resource management in health care: principles and practice. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Hosoi, M., Molton, I. R., Jensen, M. P., Ehde, D. M., Amtmann, S., O’Brien, S., … Kubo, C. (2010). Relationships among alexithymia and pain intensity, pain interference, and vitality in persons with neuromuscular disease: Considering the effect of negative affectivity. Pain, 149(2): 273–277. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2010.02.012

Korczak, D., Huber, B., & Kister, C. (2010). Differential diagnostic of the burnout syndrome. GMS Health Technology Assessment, 6, 1-9. doi:10.3205/hta000087

Maslach, C. & Leiter, M. P. (2010). Reversing burnout: How to rekindle your passion for work. IEEE Engineering Management Review, 38(4), 91-96. doi:10.1109/EMR.2010.5645760


1. Alexithymia is defined as a lack of emotional awareness and the inability to identify or label emotions, which is demonstrated by difficulty identifying and describing feelings and difficulty with externally-oriented thinking (Hosoi et al., 2010).

2. In response to Cliffe’s (2001) “What a Star—What a Jerk”:

  • Mary Rowe calls on Jane to show laissez-faire leadership in which she does nothing directly but tries to “work with Andy” to come to a workable solution, relying on upper management to provide discipline. In the writing, Jane has already approached Andy and discussed his attitudes towards his co-workers; however, the positive result of this conversation was short-lived, and Andy reverted to his tactics of ill-temperment and hostility. In my opinion, these attitudes have no place in the workplace, and Jane should be adamant about this point before Andy directs his rage towards her, further undermining her authority.
  • Chuck McKenzie, however, makes some good points on how to work with Andy (so long as there is actual value in Andy remaining employed with TechiCo). Mr. McKenzie calls for some innovative changes in the organizational structure to separate Andy from the rest of the team, capitalizing on increased productivity all around. Additionally, creating a specialized team of high performers might alleviate burnout (if, in fact, that is what Andy is suffering) and demonstrate to Jane’s superiors that there are ways to isolate and reward top performers while tolerating average performers. Before doing anything, as Mr. McKenzie points out, Jane needs to become a leader and stop acting like a manager.
  • While Kathy Jordan elucidates more of the same philosophy as Chuck McKenzie in regards to leadership, she advocates trust and positivity between Jane and Andy. I feel that trust and positivity are a product of a viable working relationship and are more goals than standards. Ms. Jordan is right, however, that Jane must prove her mettle in a very short time.
  • Finally, James Waldroop provides some real insight into how Jane might best lead and mold Andy into a star employee. Either that, or Jane has started the time table for Andy’s departure. All in all, leaders need followers, and leaders cultivate followers; however, if a subordinate does not wish to follow, then the leader cannot lead or cultivate. In this case, the relationship has failed.