DEALING WITH A BIPOLAR EMPLOYER
Nancy H. Shanks, Ph.D.
Buchbinder, Sharon, Shanks, Nancy & Buchbinder, Dale. 2014. Cases in Health Care Management. Jones & Bartlett: Burlington, MA.
Maggie has been a good employee at City University Medical Center. She’s held several different positions, but has switched jobs a couple of times. After deciding she needed a change a year ago, Maggie took a job in marketing and strategic planning. In this position, she oversees the development of strategic and marketing plans for the patient care departments.
Since Maggie is new to my department, and I’m her new supervisor, I have tried to coach her about how to go about developing plans and how to work with the teams in the patient care areas. She was involved in developing a plan for a patient care area prior to making a move to our department. But, that’s the extent of her background in planning.
We thought that it would be a real plus that Maggie knew many of the people throughout the hospital system as she has worked with them in other capacities in previous positions. It is important for her to be a skilled collaborator on the various aspects of these plans. We’re using a button-up process, where development plans build on each other to eventually develop the organizations’ overall plan.
The process starts out fairly well, but as we get closer to the deadline and several departments are way behind, Maggie starts to crack under the pressure. Everything seems to go haywire for her. Yesterday, she came into my office saying, "that’s it! I’ve had it! I can’t take this job. I am going to quit. Nobody is submitting what I need, and no one is even close to being on schedule. This is impossible." We reviewed the schedule, we set a revised timeline, and by the time we’re done, she has calmed down. When she leaves, I hope everything is back on an even keel.
The following day, Maggie is having another meltdown again, and she is in my office threatening to quit. I soon realize that this is a pattern, albeit a somewat unpredictable one, as I am not sure if this will be a good or bad day as things seem to change quickly we never seem to know what is going on to set her off and when. I’m in a quandry and uncertain about how to deal with Maggie. I’ve tried coaching her and talking with her about trying to understand different people’s styles of working, being able to deal with uncertainty, revising her schedule to accomodate other people’s deadlines, and trying to adapt to changes.
Maggie has mentioned that her daughter is bipolar and how difficult this has been for both of them. Maggie seems to have a very volatile personality, to go off the deep end frequently, to get agitated very quickly and easily, and to go from calm to complete breakdown in a short period of time. I am not a psychologist, but I do remember from Psychology 101 that bipolar disorder tends to run in families. I am now beginning to think Maggie is also bipolar and this is not something I have every had to deal with and I’m not sure what to do next.
In this discussion:
1. How will you lead Maggie (a follower) without violating HR rules and laws that protect her? (15 points)
2. Using knowledge of your EI style, what would provide insight into leading Maggie and achieving the goals you have set in front of her? (15 points)
3. What other leadership implications can you think of in this situation? Keep in mind, terminating Maggie is not an option. (10 points)