Relationship advice for senior living leaders

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Lois A. Bowers
Lois A. Bowers

“Do you have any recommendations on culture change in a unionized building when there may be some tensions or the union is trying to create its own culture?”

The question for Juniper Communities founder and CEO Lynne Katzmann came after her recent presentation, “The Value of Culture and Communication in Senior Living,” at the McKnight's Senior Living Online Expo.

I thought of that question this past week as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 3, et al., that public-sector unions can't collect fees from nonunion employees without their explicit consent. Opinions on the decision varied widely, both among justices and between organizations representing employees or businesses.

Earlier in the month at the Online Expo, however, Katzmann offered two tips to answer the attendee's question, admitting that no simple existed.

“I think the most important thing is to try to create some alignment on some issue with the union, to the degree it's possible,” given that union officials may seek to distinguish themselves from community management, she said.

In her experience, such alignment and subsequent discussion about it “has spoken to people and has enabled them to feel better,” Katzmann said.

Direct communication also is important, she said.

“When people relate to you as people, when you feel you have a bond, then they'll come and talk to you about issues,” Katzmann said. “I think that's the best strategy. It's not always possible, but you've got to put yourself out there.”

The strategy applies not only to department heads but also to other leaders and during all three shifts, she said.

“You've got to share a pizza or a cup of coffee. You've just got to be present,” Katzmann said. “You've got to be a person to people, just like them, and then you can have a conversation about things. And in some cases, I've seen people shy away from unions if they felt like they had a real relationship with management.”

Communicating and trying to find points of agreement — both tips sound like good advice for any relationship inside or outside the workplace.

You still can listen to Katzmann's presentation, during which she shared lots of other advice related to culture, communication and leadership, at www.mcknightsseniorliving.com/June13expo. You can register at the bottom of the page at that link, or if you already registered for the Online Expo, simply enter the email address and password you used at the time.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight's Senior Living. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers. Email her at lois.bowers@mcknights.com.

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