«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
Within a fast paced environment such as a hospital, the focus perhaps needs to be on ‘productive reflection’ as described by Boud, Cressey and Docherty (2006:2) “reflection is far from being an isolating act of solely personal benefit, it is the key to learning to improve production and to making life at work more satisfying.” To gain this level of ‘productive reflection’; there does need to be engagement on an organisational level rather than an individual one, but with matron’s approach to management and the examples she has drawn on this does seem a feasible way of moving forward within her team. However, changing the culture of the whole NHS is a very different beast, and not one that I am addressing within this thesis. This thinking was further reiterated by SH below.
Through this practice it allows you to deal with issues without the need for a blame culture, staff feel part of the team and they are more open to discussions (SH – email question) The practice of productive reflection was also drawn on as being dynamic and related to both work and learning. As IH discussed though There is no doubt that R.P. can improve an individual’s performance in many different ways, personal and professional, but help and support is needed to ensure the correct interpretation of reflective thinking and channelling the results into something positive. The danger is to use it to just increase productivity. (IH – email response) Again, this comes back to safety for the individual engaging in reflection and also as Vince and Reynolds (undated) discussed it is not just about operationalization in the service of management but more of a developmental opportunity between the individuals within the team. This also reiterates the view of reflective practice leaning towards action and not being a process to “beat yourself up”.
To summarise, there is a need to engage in open and honest practice. For organisations to be able to admonish blame culture, they need to provide a safe environment that allows for the employee voice. There needs to be a consideration from the organisation to engage in reflective practice and this should not just be the responsibility of the individual (van Woerkrom and Croon (2008) but from the organisation as a whole.
3.3 Mistakes do happen In our working lives we all make mistakes, but some of the interviewees felt that by using reflection there is an allowance for the mistakes to happen and the learning to be taken from them.
I can be truly honest with myself and understand that mistakes are made in life but they can be corrected if you understand why, reflective practice allows you to do that, also 4 years ago I was rubbish at reflecting I struggled to understand what this was therefore I was saying to myself “nothing wrong with me why should I critique myself” now I see things in a different light and try to help my work colleagues/friends to reflect on issues they don’t seen for themselves, I can now see things that I can change and make me a better person, I am now able to make better decisions than before and I can now stay calm in stressful situations (MP – email) Without reflection it would be almost impossible to learn from previous mistakes or enhance practices. I believe it has had a positive effect on my development. It has helped me understand why things have gone particularly well and should be repeated or not so well and need attention for future. This has also had a knock on effect of contributing towards improving my confidence in my own abilities and the perceptions of others about my capabilities. (CM – email questions) SW had taking on a new member of staff and after initial training they seemed to make rapid progress so he allowed them to work with minimal supervision, but mistakes began to happen and routines and procedures were not being followed which had a wider impact on the organisation. ‘It has made me reflect on how the situation can be corrected (more closer supervision until I am happy that tasks are being carried out correctly). Also deeper reflection has taken place on the training I have given and also whether I was correct to lessen the supervision given to the member of staff. I have reflected that my decisions were justified at the time. I expected some errors to occur as new staff tend to hit a perceived 'comfort zone' where they feel that they know what they are doing and mistakes can occur for various reasons. I was not surprised that mistakes were made, I expected this to happen, but the severity of some of them and frequency has led me to reflect on the training and supervision of this member of staff. (SW – email) I found the discussion from SW very interesting in that not only were they prepared to recognise and learn from their own mistakes but they were also aware that they had to let others learn from mistakes as well, although I felt there needed to be careful consideration on how much ‘supervision’ he will put in place and what the impact would be on the member of staff.
The Enforcer reflected on an uncomfortable situation in the workplace which had involved a change in a heavily unionised environment, and as a new manager he had not engaged the Union in the initial discussions which led to a grievance being placed against him. This had potential for serious escalation and he spoke with his line manager to explain the situation and his mistake, this evidenced his ability to own up to his mistake, but also to being able to trust the line manager. His line manager said to him ‘look this is a learning curve’. The line manager helped to deal with the situation whilst also reassuring the enforcer that he had had many grievances against him whilst having to deal with car parking and the learning was taken on board. However he reflected on his position and stated ‘I changed my behaviour, I changed how I handled it because I had put myself in this predicament that I didn’t like, unknowingly.
This time I made sure my behaviour had changed so I didn’t do that. So I learned from what I did and my mistakes basically.’ This learning has been further evidenced as he is working through another change at the time of the interview and stated that he had the Unions on board from Day 1! His final comment on the matter was ‘I will never stop learning. The day I stop learning is the day it is not worth me doing this job in my view… Reflective practice to me is a method for me to basically learn and improve what I am and how I behave’.
Vince and Reynolds (undated:13) draw formally on critical reflection recognising a shift from this being purely about the individual learning but more on the need to recognise the “collective responsibility for reflective practice on organizing assumptions and practices… with a collective reflection on emotional, moral, social and political capabilities within organizations” thus changing ways of working within organisations. As JG found to enable the use of reflective practice has enabled him to also cope with critique better, as he has recognised this is both for individual and organisational improvement.
Most definitely, it helps me if anything see the other side to anything. When my manager should ever criticise me or my work I would always take this as a negative and probably stress about it and dwell on it for days, I now take this as a positive and on which something I can improve on, love your deviations as they say.... (JG – email response) As discussed throughout this section, there needs to be an engagement from the individual and organisation to create a safe environment to allow reflection to become embedded and not seen as an isolated skill. There does need to be trust within the team to allow the open communication to emerge.
As Basil Fawlty stated ‘… and that probably touches on what I was saying about people thinking you are criticising them or looking for fault. I think they feel safe that they could go ‘well, we could have done this better’ and they know the management fee isn’t at risk or the contract. It is all about working together, the same direction, and getting stuff done better. Plus, I think [my current organisation] is a culture of process improvement. So once they get that over, everybody quite rightly, should be able to express failure and success safely and say this is how we could do it. (Basil Fawlty – telephone interview) The above statement evidenced the need to be able to be open and honest, and culturally within the organisation this appears to be acceptable, but this has been a learning curve to engage the trust within the team so they feel they can discuss mistakes, but also be open to critique.
Reflective practice encourages learning from mistakes and this can improve team dynamics and in time help to lessen blame culture if everyone feels able to be open and honest about with each other. Again this does require organisational commitment.
Reflective Practice and ‘Blame’ Summary I found this section quite enlightening drawing on the comments from the social actors, and their views on trust, blame and being open and honest. This is an area that requires not only personal engagement but also organisational engagement. I felt that allowing this practice to be engaged from an organisational perspective has led towards discussions of more engagement.
To engage with your organisation, and to be motivated there needs to be levels of trust. As French et al (2011) discussed this allows staff to feel good about their work, and relationships with the organization as part of their psychological contract. Vince and Saleem (2004) argue constant use of blame can limit collective learning, as reflection is bound by the power relations, or management structure within an organisation. Organisations and individuals need to find a balance of openness and an encouragement from the organisation to constantly reflect and improve; and to be open and honest about mistakes but to learn from them. The level of which appeared to vary from organisation to organisation.
Theme 4 Reflective Practice and Personal Development
Within this section, and drawing on the initial themes that appeared I will be drawing on self-awareness; emotion and control; emotional intelligence;
relationships; behavioural change; and growth in confidence. This section focused on the personal journeys of the social actors, with open and honest statements on how reflective practice had aided the individual to improve and grow from a personal perspective. I have tried to outline them under the subheadings but due to the nature of individuals and how we speak, there were crossovers as this section emerged such as self-awareness and confidence;
and behavioural change with relationships. As one of the email respondents
noted from a more holistic view:
Reflective practice has been one of the key tools I have used, which has ensured my development is of a very complete nature. (JH – email response)
4.1 Self-awareness Furthering the discussion on blame culture and the ability to make mistakes and learn from them, Stevens (1989: 87-89) discusses communication with others, especially the issues of trust and honesty, he says with regards to being honest with others that "I have to first be honest with myself and get in touch with my experiencing and take responsibility for it by expressing it as my experiencing".
This section will explore the concept of self-awareness through the discussions with the social actors through the interviews and also from the email responses.
Atkins and Murphy (1993:1190) state that self-awareness ‘is an analysis of feelings and knowledge, and the development of a new perspective" and are crucial to reflection.
During my discussion with Personnel Penelope (telephone interview) she drew on the benefits of engaging with reflective practice stating ‘you would enrich your self-awareness of why you do things and you would begin then to start thinking and understanding why you react in a particular way and that can be helpful then to structure future meetings or conversations or even how you approach a project or task… it is several things. It is about improving your performance as an individual; it is about learning; and it is about easing your interactions with other people…it is about improving your performance and your effectiveness.’ The above extract evidenced her thinking around self-awareness but also drew on the wider issues of interacting with others, and if we are more aware of how we come across to people, we can start to improve ourselves, as individuals.
I think it has made me more self-aware (not always comfortable!) it makes me challenge my assumptions and to a certain extent it highlights and then minimises any bias I may have, for example when dealing with people. I think it allows me to deal with situations in a more planned and thoughtful way – thinking about my mistakes! I think it has improved my performance, particularly as I’m still fairly new in my job role and I still have a lot to learn. By reflecting on my past performance makes me do better next time and I don’t keep repeating the same mistakes. (MG email) Interestingly MG discusses that becoming more self-aware has not always been comfortable, I found this to be an interesting concept. As human beings it can be hard to be able to recognise both our strengths and limitations but also to embrace them to recognise our areas for improvement. If organisations wish to engage with the use of 360 degree feedback in organisations the individuals involved have to trust those engaging with the process and also be prepared to acknowledge their own shortcomings (Bratton et al, 2011).
There were also discussions about being aware of own behaviours and how these can be perceived. Firecracker refers to the use of reflective practice in relation to her own behaviour.
It has taken the sting out of things. It gives you a less aggressive, not aggressive, less confrontational stance. Softer style. Not to say you don’t get what you need, but just a softer style. I think you are more aware of yourself and how you act on things. (Firecracker – telephone interview) ST simply recognised the new knowledge they have gained about themselves and their ability to learn through reflective practice.