Editor’s Note: We’re excited to have Nicholas Michael, PhD, PMP providing some great boots on the ground content from the trenches of healthcare IT. We appreciate him sharing his experience working both at a healthcare organization and as a consultant.
Advancement opportunities and career development was difficult in the healthcare organization where I matured. As a former full time employee (FTE), becoming a consultant definitely advanced my career. The chance to work with several healthcare entities has led to a great deal of professional accomplishments. Working as a trainer, analyst, and in leadership and management, I have had a myriad of experiences. Initially, all the interactions with clients start similarly.
Met with friendly greetings, warm handshakes and kind words daily. Positive feedback came often. I constantly heard how my experience and skill set are impressive. Phrases such as, “your opinion matters”. Words like “nice job”, “incredible presentation” and “excellent proposal” come throughout the work week. Nothing short of praise and admiration. Let me tell you more about one client in particular. It all starts with training…
Some organizations offer training and orientation while other institutions give you a badge and send you on your way. Organizations that put consultants through a vetted training process as they onboard in comparison to those who do not, tend to have a more positive result at the conclusion of the contract. At least that’s been my experience. Which leads me to the silent sabotage. The sabotage-r conducts insufficient organizational specific training. The consultant may not be aware, but the sabotage has officially begun. Training is questionable and not consistent. No supporting documentation provided; you hear the words like “Oh don’t worry about knowing this really, just reach out to me if you need help.”
The high praise continues. The client site FTE representatives state they are “thankful you have joined to help with the transition.” Well except one of the team members voices his disdain for you. For the sake of this article let’s call him Kevin. Kevin is upset, that as a consultant you are not obligated to work beyond 40 hours weekly or deal with the politics of FTE life. He becomes increasingly disruptive in your meetings. He tries to bully you. Bullying comes in the form of touting his knowledge of facility specific administrative processes. I try to ignore the belligerent behavior. But jealousy and sophomoric hijinks ensue and spreads throughout the FTE team.
Suddenly a complaint comes in from another source. The criticism comes from another manager that complained about the speed of the project. Additional grumbling came discussing the length of time I spend away from desk and how much time is spent on the cell phone. What has not been consider is I didn’t have a desk phone and the cell reception is poor. Therefore, to conduct business I have to move to an area where I can get good reception. Kevin also lodges a complaint. He insisted he worked 41 hours, where I only log in 40 hours per week. I am made to feel as if my decision to become a consultant or being a consultant is somehow not as honorable.
The complaint often comes from someone who is less experienced and less educated than I. The idea or audacity of individuals who do not have my professional background. I was once an FTE who logged several uncompensated hours to achieve company goals. I have over 25 years in the healthcare industry. I became a consultant because my knowledge, skills and experiences have reached an expert level. I’m told by the FTE manager to let it go don’t worry about it. Once again, I’m complimented and given high praises.
A few days pass without incident. All of a sudden, I’m told once again there is a complaint on the handing of a project. I was not given much detail just that management was not happy. I ask more questions to ascertain the underlying issue. It seems one of the managers feels the project is stalling and had few other objections.
A little background, I’m a consultant that was employed to revive and complete stalled projects. At this point, I had this project for approximately four weeks. The project in question had been incomplete for nearly 2.5 years. In four weeks, I put together a team, met with operations to gather the requirements, and arranged time for the analysts to design and ready a potential solution for operational approval. Admittedly, I was confused by the lodged complaints.
The previously mentioned complaints had now reached the executive leadership level. I was confronted with dissatisfaction coming from the top. I was advised by the FTE manager to “kiss the ring and beg for my contract to be continued”. All the while, I’m confused as to why I was getting conflicting information. I received praise and complaints from the same source. At this point, I decided that the work environment had become too toxic. I decided to put in my two-week notice. As I had been undermined, complained against, had my integrity questioned and faced FTEs who despised me.
My reputation in the healthcare IT community is stellar. Not wanting to leave my fate in the hands of the FTEs, I approached leadership. To my surprise, the feedback I received from leadership was vastly different from what I had been told by the FTE manager. The response given was one that met with great approval, commendation, and resounding admiration. Not at all what I was being told by the FTE manager the source of sabotage. I discussed my experience up to that point with leadership. Management stated they had not received any complaints about my work. In fact, they had only received positive feedback. Leadership asked that I give them a chance to remedy the issue. All this time had passed, and it seems professional envy, jealousy and sabotage had been at the center of a conspiracy to compel me to abandon the contract.
Leadership was not aware of the situation. Now with the FTE manager, leadership and myself all in the same room, the truth comes out. The FTE manager admits to directly undermining, providing inadequate training/orientation and contempt for me. The FTE leader also admitted to lying about the manager who complained about me. I learned that the manager actually paid me a great compliment. I heard this from leadership. I did not expect the confession. I did not see that coming at all. The FTE manager asked for an opportunity to correct his actions.
Soon after the confrontation with all parties involved, the professional storm calmed. Given the circumstances, I must admit, I no longer trusted the FTE manager. Completing the contract proved a daunting task. I am the consummate professional, however I could not help but wonder if these issues would reoccur. Asked to extend to my contract with the organization, I declined. I completed my original obligation and moved on from the client. Lesson learned, beware of the silent sabotage.