I am familiar with a local EMS organization where the perception of the employee-base is that middle management sacrifices requisite supplies in order to regain budget losses, losses that were incurred due to their overall mismanagement. Sacrificing supplies in the emergency medical service arena equates to negligence and could, indeed, prove harmful to patients. This, coupled with the notion of incompetence, has a negative effect on morale, especially as this is one of the only divisions within the larger company that experiences these types of problems. Many have considered leaving (in fact, I have been told that most consider it quite often); however, the compensation package that they receive cannot be met by any other provider in the area. This leaves the employee in an ethical quandary. This issue is not isolated to this particular company, though. Although many private ambulance companies in the region face the same mismanagement, they do not offer comparable compensation packages and are much easier to leave.
Fallon and McConnell (2007) discuss how pay and benefits are vitally linked to overall job satisfaction, and I agree with their determination. However, there are other components, such as conscience. Duffy (2010) explains, in the light of pharmacists refusing to dispense abortion pills as a right of conscience, how “medical professions are among those where ethics and morality are of paramount concern” (p. 509). Consider Duffy’s explanation in reverse as this particular company is forcing their employees not to care for patients who they would otherwise be able to treat. The result is a significant emotional and psychological toll, I can imagine, but the employees cannot just walk away from their paycheck. This company, I feel, has learned to balance some of the positive working conditions with some of the negative working conditions, and the company relies heavily on wages and benefits to do so. According to Fallon and McConnell (2007), this tactic helps to relieve employee turnover rates; however, if the company would mitigate the negative aspects of the job, the wages and benefits offered could be used to attract employees with higher skill levels. Instead of leveraging ambition and affecting positive psychology within the workforce, as Amabile and Kramer (2011) recommend, the typical leverage is financial at a cost of ambition and morale.
In contrast, I have worked for agencies that paid far less in compensation than their competition, but the appreciation on the part of management was evident and allowed me to overlook the compensation gap with the other companies where the employees were always complaining and just seemed unhappy. Unfortunately, the gap grew to a point that was unbearable and I had to ultimately leave, but it was quite a while before I found another agency that commended professional evolution and progress, such as described by Amabile and Kramer (2011) — the company discussed above, however, is not.
Amabile and Kramer (2011) describe the withholding of resources to be a “toxin” that negatively effects morale. By improving supply requisition, a “catalyst” to improve morale, and improving recognition and supporting a free exchange of ideas, this company could improve morale significantly and focus on hiring skilled and experienced providers rather than those that will merely acquiesce to their ambiguous demands.
Amabile, T. M. & Kramer, S. J. (2011). The power of small wins. Harvard Business Review, 89(5), 70-80.
Duffy, M. E. (2010). Good medicine: Why pharmacists should be prescribed a right of conscience. Valparaiso University Law Review, 44(2), 509-564.
Fallon, L. F. & McConnell, C. R. (2007). Compensation and benefits. In Human resource management in health care: principles and practice (pp. 201-218). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.