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Being there: Building a trusting relationship with your workers
Meet people "where they are" culturally
Honest answer: Do employees consider you to be trustworthy?
Virtually everything you doreturning employees to work quickly and safely, preventing injuries, and reducing health care costshinges on trust, according to Margie Weiss, PhD, CEO and community health advocate at the Weiss Health Group, a Neenah, WI-based consulting company that works with companies and communities on health and wellness.
"A trusting relationship allows you to be a more effective coach," she says. "It encourages workers to share ideas on how to maintain a healthy, safe workplace." Workers need to be able to do this without fear of reprisal, says Weiss.
She recommends the following practices:
Use many communication vehicles to promote health, wellness and safety in the workplace.
Do this via written newsletters, oral communications at meetings, briefings, training sessions, and social media sites, Weiss recommends.
Be consistent in how you deliver healthcare services and messages.
This is necessary whether you are interpreting policies or providing services, says Weiss. "Consistency within the organization is very important," she says. "What is the mission and vision of the company? Do the leaders walk-the-talk?"
Demonstrate respect for each individual's personal situation.
Meet people "where they are," and consider their personal, cultural and ethnic beliefs, says Weiss. "At all times, encourage workers to gain knowledge and skills to enhance their ability to care for their health and safety," she adds.
Put yourself out there
The key to establishing trust with employees, says Susan L. Zarzycki, RN,COHN,CM, an occupational health manager at Finch Paper LLC in Glens Falls, NY, is to "put yourself out there. I believe it's important for employees to know who the nurse is."
Zarzycki attends employee and committee meetings as much as possible. "We make it a point to go out to their areas for activities such as blood pressure and flu clinics, because employees are somewhat tied to their machines here," she says.
You can learn a lot about employees just in the course of seeing them every day, she says. "We also have worked their shifts, if something is going on that doesn't occur on the typical day shift," she says.
Above all, make it clear to employees that you are there for them anytime they need you. "I must say to people 100 times a day, 'If you need anything, let us know. We'll be there,'" she says.
If Zarzycki sees an employee for a work issue, or a serious non-work related issue , she gives him or her a business card with a cell phone number. "The cell phones are provided by the company," she says. "I have had several employees call when I am not in the office to follow up, or to ask questions."
Recently, Zarzycki sent an employee to the emergency room, gave him her card and told him to follow up. "He was admitted to the hospital later that evening, and his wife used the card to call my cell phone to let me know," she says.
For more information on establishing trust with employees, contact:
Margie Weiss, PhD, Weiss Health Group, Neenah, WI. Phone: (920) 450-4166. E-mail: email@example.com.
Susan L. Zarzycki, RN,COHN,CM, Occupational Health Manager, Finch Paper, Glens Falls, NY. Phone: (518) 793-2541 ext. 5389. Fax: (518) 793-1872. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.