Here’s another email question from a reader. I hope this topic can help you as well…

Dear Elizabeth,

How can I professionally address the need for help from my co-workers without them getting upset? As an RN, there are many times that I need to request an aide to do tasks, such as VS, when I feel they shouldn’t need to be reminded or asked, but rather should be part of their daily duty. It is frustrating to me to have to “spoon feed” coworkers when I feel they should know what needs to be done. 

Do you have any advice or suggestions for dealing with co-workers in this way?

Thanks so much,

Tired of Asking in Texas

Great question! One that I am sure many people out there reading struggle with. I too had these same feelings when I worked as a psychiatric nurse, so I know how frustrating it can be to have this happen.

So what can you do about it? How can you get your co-workers to do their jobs? 

How to Effectively Delegate to Co-Workers #nursingfromwithin #yournextshiftMy response may turn some of you off… but here’s the reality. You can’t.

I’ve said this time and time again on this blog, in my books, and when I speak. There is no way to get an adult to do something. The more you tell someone to do what you want (when they don’t want to), the more you turn them off.

I will use a personal example here, with respect to exercise and losing weight. And I’m sure it’s OK to do this here as I have talked about this with the person at hand that I’m about to tell you about.

So, back when I started my business, I was really into exercise and nutrition. I had gone through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition as my second health coaching course and wanted everyone around me to love staying in shape as much as I did. And that meant my husband.

He had run a marathon (yup, the full 26.2 miles) in 2009 and so I thought he was into exercise. I even got him a membership at the gym where I worked. And then… he never used it. I’d ask him about working out. Tell him to go. And the more and more I pushed, the more he was against it. Imagine… me, a health coach, living with a man who didn’t want to work out and eat healthy! What could I do about it?

Well, over time, I realized: a whole lot of nothing.

Nothing can be done about another adult. You cannot change their behaviors. And the sooner you agree with this line of thinking, the sooner you will start to enjoy your job that much more.

So back to the question at hand… how can I get my co-worker to do their job without my having to remind them? You can’t. I know it’s annoying. I know it isn’t the lifelong lesson you wanted to learn here. I know it’s not super-fancy and oh-so-helpful. Plain and simple: you cannot get an adult to change behaviors. They have to want to do it themselves.

I’d like to address another part of this question, that I thought was really interesting… The writer stated: ‘when I feel they should know what needs to be done‘. hate to break it to you, but right there in that language used, is the problem at hand. ‘When I feel they should‘ is setting you up for major frustration. Sure, it’s your perception that they should know what to do… but do they share that perception with you? Does the person you are delegating to think that they ought to jump in and do the work on their own? Do they feel they have the authority to do so? Maybe they are feeling that they are ‘supposed’ to wait until you delegate them a task. I mean, we talk so much in healthcare about delegation. Maybe they learned to wait until the nurse tells them what to do. Just a thought…

My final piece of advice here would be to have a conversation with this person. Tell them that it is OK for them to step up to the plate. Empower them to act on their own. Share with them that you would love it if they went ahead and did that task without your telling them to do so. And don’t stop there, with one conversation. You may think you’ve solved your issue by talking to one co-worker… you need to have this same conversation with everyone in this role.

I hope this helps. I’d love to hear what others think. Share a comment below on how you’ve successfully handled this situation. We’d love to hear (and learn) from you!

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RNAbout the Author: As a speaker, workshop facilitator, and Reiki Master, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Your Next Shift Workshop, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver.

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN

“I’m a Nurse, but I’m Not Sure I LOVE Nursing Anymore! Can You Help Me?”


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