Why ‘Above and Beyond’ awards are top of the ‘Least Helpful’ list for carers
Just before lunch, during the training we run on the impact of Compassion Fatigue, we pause and ask the participants a simple question. What does the organisation already have in place to support you emotionally and what do you think they could add? The most popular answers include feeling supported by colleagues and managers followed by the fact that most know if there is an EAP or counselling available and some people working in the NHS are aware of initiatives run by wellbeing teams which is great. But as you can imagine staff are also keen to tell us what is not helpful and top of that list by far comes the ‘above and beyond awards’ or anything similar! Now I know that these were set up with the very best intentions to reward people who are doing a great job but they and I have a big problem with this and I will explain why!
People who choose to work in a role where they care for others have several traits in common, they are generally very kind and compassionate, very empathetic, and many are also people pleasers. These traits make them very good at their jobs and very valued by those they care for. But also in grave danger of ‘over caring’ by which I mean that they will naturally go beyond what is expected of them. For example, staying late or coming in early to support the team. Taking on additional responsibilities to the detriment of themselves and their home life or even taking on the role of family member for those in their care.
So given that those who employ them are well aware of their natural propensity to do this who thought that actively encouraging and, in some cases, financially rewarding this behaviour was a good idea? Some organisations have set the parameters for these awards that staff can only get one if they do something that is outside of their job description. I totally applaud any manager acknowledging when a staff member has worked particularly effectively but actively encouraging people to do this is very unfair. What we have been told is that it is often the same people who get these awards as they do not have outside commitments, work in more managerial or administrative roles or consciously go out of their way to find ways to fulfil the criteria. This causes resentment and friction in teams and many staff we spoke to become very upset and angry.
So let me suggest something! Let’s move away from this towards the idea that all staff are encouraged to only go above and beyond in one area. Taking care of themselves. Because at the end of the day if they are encouraged and supported to show themselves the same care and compassion as they show others everyone is a winner!
Jayne has worked in healthcare for over 30 years as a nurse and an educator. She is a published author and regularly speaks at conferences and events on the subject of Compassion Fatigue all over the UK.
Having experienced compassion fatigue herself Jayne is acutely aware of the emotional impact that working in any caring role has. She is committed to raising awareness about Compassion Fatigue and is campaigning for emotional health and safety to be seen as having equal status to physical health and safety in every industry across the UK.