PAGE 12 | THE CARER DIGITAL | ISSUE 86
How To Deal With Conflict Between Carers: New Freedom For Residents Results In New Pressures For Key Workers Conflict resolution expert and CEO of The TCM Group (www.thetcmgroup.com), David Liddle, provides five tips to those trying to keep the peace in high pressure environments The final curb on Plan B has been announced, with residents elated at the thought of unlimited visits from loved ones soon to become a reality. But within a team of carers, already exhausted due to the intense pressures of working in healthcare, the stress mounts. Rules to frequently test, a duty to control greater spreads of the virus, and a vaccination mandate merge to overwhelm staff wellbeing. One staff member feels exasperated by the responsibility to continually test and trace the virus – whilst residents and visitors are able to move freely – and another is frustrated by their lack of adherence to the rules. Feelings of goodwill and cooperation start to sour, relationships fracture and teams splinter. The battle against Coronavirus has greatly affected those working within healthcare, intensifying pressures and resulting in team disruption, poor employee wellbeing and workplace conflict. If you’re within a team struggling to tackle these tensions, what can you do to help resolve issues, rebuild teams and celebrate the new freedom given to residents? Working in the care sector has always been demanding but the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent rules have become a catalyst for greater levels of workplace conflict. And from Monday 31st January, restrictions surrounding coronavirus lifted across the UK. For care homes, limits on the number of visitors per resident were scrapped, increasing freedom for families. The end of Plan B also means that outbreak management rules have been halved from 28 days to 14, with self-isolation periods also cut. Those unable to see loved ones were overjoyed this week as they reunited without restraint.
FROM FREEDOM TO FALLOUT
For carers, the reality of reversing restrictions is different. Less limits for residents mean more rules for workers: healthcare rules state that care workers must undergo weekly testing and further infection control measures including full vaccination and booster. By December 2021, only one-third of care workers had received their booster jab. Head of the National Care Association, Nadra Ahmed, warns that these measures, combined with continued staff shortages, could compromise the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals. High levels of poor mental health in the care sector are common stories. A survey by Unison reports that 68% of care workers felt their mental health had declined during the pandemic, with many experiencing post-traumatic distress disorder. Feelings of anxiety around managing the protection of those in care, avoiding the spread of new virus strains and government pressures to remain vaccinated and tested amalgamate to escalate concerns, grievances and complaints in the workplace. People are tired, burnt out and strained. This was the case for a private nursing home. In 2021, The TCM Group led a formal investigation to uncover the issues behind a formal grievance raised between two carers. Allegations of poor conduct unravelled to reveal a much wider cultural disconnect: strained working practices were stifling employee productivity, wellbeing and engagement. The real problem is often hidden beneath the surface.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MENTAL HEALTH AND CONFLICT Those suffering with mental health issues will often be guided by stress hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. When people are stressed, it often affects their ability to think rationally. This can lead to poor decision-making, mistakes and low productivity. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health, staff under stress can find it hard to speak up. A lack of understanding from colleagues coupled with what looks like apathetic staff – who are really struggling deep down – can cause conflict to arise. It's important for staff, and particularly managers, to be able to spot the signs of stress. Noticing behaviour changes, promoting a psychologically safe environment and nipping disagreements in the bud are some ways to manage employee wellbeing and the onset of workplace conflict. The lifecycle of conflict has three stages:
PRE-CONFLICT This is the earliest phase of conflict. Usually happy, resilient and collaborative staff seem less present in their day-to-day duties. Something’s not quite right in the working atmosphere: a member of
staff is turning up late, reacts snappily to a co-worker, or appears to be less engaged with a resident than before. At this early stage, it’s important to be curious and listen actively. Retaining a level of objectivity and empathy is crucial to opening up some critical conversations about behaviours and emotions.
CONFLICT When issues go unnoticed, they grow into disputes. There may be public quarrels, complaints and team factions at this stage of real conflict. To diffuse the situation, a manager can intervene in a safe, facilitated space to depersonalise the problem. Bringing the parties in conflict together to talk openly about their issues can be a breakthrough point for unvoiced concerns previously brushed under the carpet. The manager should encourage ground rules of mutual respect, confidentiality and uninterrupted speaking time. When listening to each party, it’s crucial not to make assumptions and summarise back what you’re hearing to ensure correct understanding of the situation.
POST-CONFLICT This reflective stage allows all parties involved to look ahead and establish a basis of trust, cooperation and goodwill going forward. After the storm has passed, the manager involved should role model compassion, care and calm to parties. If a positive and protective culture is presented to employees, with space to share their stress and worry, then a cohesive and resilient team will develop in turn. In short, dealing with workplace pressure can be summarised in five tips: • Actively listen to those in conflict and retain a level of objectivity and impartiality. • Be empathetic. Try and put yourself in the other person’s shoes, ask questions and disagree well. • Don’t make assumptions and summarise back what you’re hearing from your colleagues. • Bringing together the parties in conflict will allow everyone to talk openly. • Depersonalise the problem: making it a shared problem will result in a shared solution. The end of restrictions is liberating for many, but it’s important to remember the fallout for those in charge of caring for our most vulnerable. By treating our key workers with the same compassion and care that they give every day, we can keep the peace and celebrate our long-awaited freedom together.
The Residential & Home Care Show, 18-19 May 2022, ExCeL London Join us at The Residential & Home Care Show, the UK’s leadership event for delivering outstanding care, returning to the ExCeL London on 18-19 May 2022. Free for all care professionals to attend, the CPD certified conference programme will focus on the big issues facing the social care sector including recruitment and retention challenges, new employment law, personalisation, integrated care, safeguarding, raising quality, dementia, CQC ratings, which technologies work and business development. After an extremely challenging few years for the care profession, this will be the opportunity to come back together and refocus your mind. Promising to arm you with strategies, products and services, The Residential & Home Care Show will help you be in the best position to address challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.
Reasons to attend: • Free for care and healthcare professionals • Take away practical ideas and solutions you can adopt in your own organisation • Join thousands of Owners, Directors, and Senior Managers • Meet and network with 200 exhibitors showcasing their latest products and solutions • Build relationships between residential care providers, nursing homes, domiciliary care providers, NHS, local government, the voluntary sector and suppliers • Learn from 50 expert speakers who will share key case studies and deliver important panel discussions with more industry leaders and successful care business operators Visit the event website: https://www.residentialandhomecareshow.co.uk/TheCarerUK Click here to register for FREE: https://rfg.circdata.com/publish/hpc22/?source=thecareruk
Signature at Ascot Grange Unites Residents with Sixth Form Students on Outreach Programme Signature at Ascot Grange have collaborated with Charters School’s Sixth Form to allow residents the opportunity to connect with students on a weekly basis, providing company and interaction. A current cohort of seven students are enjoying a break from their school curriculum schedules to benefit from the Outreach Programme. To date, COVID-19 regulations and Government guidance has meant the meetings have been virtual, but as the term progresses both students and residents are hopeful for in-person interaction. Signature at Ascot Grange is an award-winning, purpose-built care home capable of providing residents with various care services. They team up with Charters School, one of the largest secondary schools in the area, to provide both students and residents the opportunity to build new relationships, learn, enjoy one another’s company and benefit from the unique experience the collaboration offers. Whilst adhering to COVID-19 Government guidelines, Signature at Ascot Grange has previously offered their facilities and cinema rooms to pupils of Charters School and offered to host the premier of Ascot Grange’s annual musical. Regulations put that particular concert on hold but did little to prevent the strengthening of the collaboration between the care home
the next stage of the home’s relationship with the school, and to meet the students with whom they have been interacting with. Discussing the Collaboration with Charters School Diana, a resident at Signature at Ascot Grange, said: “We are hoping to meet Charters’ students in person to chat about their school day, events that are going on, and to share with them what is happening at Ascot Grange. We have had a lovely chat previously with them on screen – it was great fun whilst we all enjoyed our afternoon cup of tea and cake!” Laura Davies, Activities Supervisor at Ascot Grange, said: “It is so lovely for our residents to talk with Charters’ students and embrace this programme. Most of them are parents themselves and having that dialogue triggers happy memories for them in their family unit or indeed as children. We talked about school uniforms, for example. Each resident discussed what they wore as children and all of the different colours that they wore. Residents and students laughed together and at each and the secondary school. Residents of Signature at Ascot Grange are now looking forward to
other- it was great fun for all involved and we are all now looking forward to being united in person.”