A subtle staffing challenge that can undermine your senior living organization

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

If you follow baseball with even a passing interest, you have probably heard of Casey Stengel.

“The Old Professor” managed some of baseball's greatest teams (his New York Yankees captured seven World Series championships between 1949 and 1958, including five in a row). He also skippered the 1962 Mets. That hapless bunch managed to win only 40 of its 160 games.

During more than a half century in baseball, Stengel picked up more than a few managerial insights. When asked about the secret to success, he famously replied, “Keep the five guys who hate you away from the four guys who haven't made up their minds.”

If there were a corollary for successfully managing senior living staff, it might be along these lines: Keep the good eggs away from the troublemakers. For a new study finds that the saying about bad apples spoiling the bunch is apparently alive and well in the workplace.

Authors Stephen Dimmock and William C. Gerken assert that even your most trustworthy workers are more likely to misbehave if they are paired with others who are dishonest. It might be comforting to think that honorable workers would nudge their ethically challenged colleagues toward the Path of Righteousness. Unfortunately, it appears that exactly the opposite is more likely.

They point to an earlier study that found financial advisers are nearly 40% more likely to commit misconduct if they encounter a new worker with wrongdoing in his or her past. To put the potential impact in a way your CFO will appreciate, the result implies that misconduct carries a 1.59% social multiplier. That's a fancy way of saying one instance of misconduct causes an additional 0.59 cases to occur, thanks to the negative power of peer pressure.

As a manager, that gives you yet another staffing headache to consider. For here the damage can be a bit unsettling. The possible negative outcomes might be so called little things, like tasks that are not fully completed. Or they could be much larger – such as theft or resident mistreatment.

In a sector as teamwork dependent as senior living, there's no easy way to fix this problem. But at a minimum, you might want to consider keeping your trustworthy workers as far away as possible from those with bad intent.

John O'Connor is editorial director of McKnight's Senior Living. Email him at john.oconnor@mcknights.com.

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