The Eight Best Ways to Kill Your Senior Living Culture 

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Steve Moran
I have never, not once, met a senior living leader who said, “Our goal is to have a crappy culture.” And yet — if turnover and Glassdoor ratings are any gauge of how the senior living/post acute care world is doing — it looks mostly like the goal is more comparable to a crappy culture than a motivated culture.
The problem is that you can do a bunch of things right — things that should lead to a great culture — and yet, you can wipe them out with a single . . . dare I say it . . . stupid act. If I am honest, it is not really a single act, because in a really healthy culture there are occasional missteps that are actually not a big deal, simply due to the fact that the culture is so healthy.
8 Culture Killers
This article was inspired by one at INC titled How To Kill Your Team’s Motivation without Really Trying, where the list is much longer. These are ones I see in senior living more often than I like.
  1. Not Walking the Talk — This is the biggest single culture killer that exists. Too many organizations say, “We care about our employees” or “We care about our residents”, then behave in ways that belie that statement. Management may think they are fooling their members, but they aren’t.
  2. Being Too Busy — I can’t say more about the circumstances, but this week I sent an email related to some really stressful aging parent issues to someone I have a personal relationship with, someone who should really care. It has been three days and I have heard nothing back. Why? I am sure that person is too busy . . . I am sure they intended to respond but business got in the way.The message to me is singular and hurtful: “I don’t really care much about you compared to other things and other people.” It chips away at my trust in that person.
  3. Asking team members to do things, then not doing the parts you need to do — I am going to confess huge guilt in this area… sorry Sue Saldibar.  I am working on a book project. Sue has done her part and I have left my part undone for months.
  4. Not Providing Information — In great cultures leaders spend a lot of time talking about how the organization is doing. What is working right and what is not working so well. They share stories about successes and failures. In poor organizations leaders are as secretive as they can possibly be, which means team members assume the worst and live in a state of fear.
  5. Not Listening to Your Team — Day to day and week to week your team is closer to residents than you are, they are also closer to their fellow team members. They want you to succeed to be a great leader. They will tell you how to be a great leader if you are willing to listen and to act on their input.
  6. Not Letting People Do Things Their Own Way — There are certain things that need to get done each day and each month in a senior living community but that does not mean there is only one way to get that thing done. When team members get to figure out how to do their tasks, they are happier and could very well be more efficient.
  7. Ignoring Conflict — Conflict can manifest in many different ways. Open warfare, favoritism, incompetence or even super confidence. Not dealing with conflict in morally right ways will destroy a team. It might mean getting rid of someone who is competent because a conflict-ridden competent person is poison to your organization.
  8. Not Giving Credit — It is just about universal that people like being praised for doing a great job. Some like it in a big public way, others like it in private and it is important to figure that out. The first sin is not giving credit for a job well done. A bigger sin is taking credit for something your team member did.


What would you add to this list?

2 comments on “The Eight Best Ways to Kill Your Senior Living Culture 

  1. Tricia A. Petersen on

    Very informative. We have just built and moved from our “traditional Nursing home” aka Jail, to our Neighborhoods….I believe we have been very focused on the task and have taken the elder out of our purpose.

    Thank you!

    • Joan Devine on

      Tricia – Congratulations to you and your team! Best wishes in your new Neighborhoods and in your quest to bring the Elder back into the center!

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