Change is a part of EMS. Our profession changes faster than most. Many of the treatments you learned in EMT class will be changed or refined before you reach your second year of EMS service. Advances in technology and research will place an ever-increasing demand on the field EMS provider to learn new skills and treatment modalities. EMS is not a job for folks who don’t like change.
But what about your organization? Will they keep up?
How tolerant is your organization to change? If you want to find out if the people you work for are resistant to change, listen for how often you hear people say these three key phrases. These are my top three “anti-change” catch phrases. The more frequently you hear people say these three things, the more likely that change will occur slowly…or not at all.
Anti-change phrase #1 – “That’s not the way we do things around here.”
This is a phrase that is used when people can’t find anything specifically wrong about an idea or proposition, they’re just afraid it might cause change. The folks who fear change use this line as a catch-all conversation stopper when a genuinely good idea shows up on their radar and they want to kill it quickly.
Part of the job of the old-guard in any organization is to protect the status-quo and avoid any initiatives that may lead to change. (This is what defines them as the old-guard.) Part of that change avoidance is being able to stomp out new ideas quickly. This phrase serves several purposes. It rejects the new idea outright and it also champions the status-quo. It lets the person with the new idea know that the way things are currently done is important and worthy of respect.
When new ideas are seen as disrespectful to the organization, you can bet that affecting change will be a long, slow and painful process.
Anti-change phrase #2 – “Let’s be realistic.”
Change takes ambition. It also takes motivation. A good way to stifle both ambition and motivation is to tell the ambitious, motivated change-makers that they are unrealistic.
When someone says, “Let’s be realistic about this.” they are subtly ridiculing the person with the new idea. It’s another way of saying that the person trying to affect change is naive. It’s patronizing. Labeling the ambitious, motivated change agent as a pie in the sky dreamer is a way of skirting the real issue. Instead of addressing the validity of the idea in question, they simply question the maturity of the person with the idea.
The big problem with this statement is that the people who create major change are very seldom realistic. Envisioning a better future, or a new way to do things better takes imagination and creativity. When the people in change champion reality, you can forget about meaningful change.
Anti-change phrase #3 – “I’ll run this up the chain of command.”
If you hear someone tell you that they are going to “run an idea up the chain” they are saying that your idea is about to go away. This is a great indirect way to kill a new idea. When someone in your direct chain of command listens thoughtfully to your idea and then tells you that they are going to take it to the next level for you, you can almost guarantee that you’ll never hear another thing about your idea again.
When people genuinely like our ideas, they don’t decide to take it to other administrators for us, they offer to take it to other administrators with us. The only reason to “take it up the chain” for us is because they don’t want us in the room while they explain why this is a bad idea. (No, they don’t want to steal your idea. Don’t flatter yourself. They want to kill it.)
Taking our idea and communicating it for us is a way to make sure the idea can be thoroughly dismantled without having us in the room to defend it. If you let your idea be championed by someone else, expect some slightly positive feedback about it being well received and someone important “thinking it over.” Then expect it to disappear.
Like the banner says, medicine moves fast. Organizations that resist change are bound to fall behind. If you hear these phrases used often by people in leadership positions in your organization, chances are, you’re already behind. You may need to embrace the status-quo…or move on.
What do you think?: Are there other anti-change phrases that I’ve missed? Is your organization resistant to change? What can you do about that?