People spend a lot of time at work. In the case of healthcare interpreters, their workplace changes from moment to moment both in regard to location and stressful dynamics. This constant change and daily variety is often appealing to interpreters, but it can also take its toll – causing interpreters to wear out and feel disconnected from other interpreter colleagues.
Interpreter managers have the additional challenge of leading and developing a strong team of committed employees, dedicated to achieving high performance standards. That's no easy task when you consider the challenges the individual team members face each day. But, it can be done. Creating a good work environment for your team is one way to achieve this.
These are three things interpreter managers can do to create a good work environment for their team:
Know the individuals on your team. Keep tabs on your team in a good way. Know what they are dealing with day-to-day, and be ready to share accolades, encouragement and appreciation when called for. Make it a point to have one-to-one time with each team member, in-person if possible, and not just at the annual review. Get to know their interests and talents beyond interpreting. Eliminate the perception that the employee is just another number.
Be a resource to your team. It’s not your job to be the parent to your team members. That would be awkward, to say the least. But it is your job to get your team what they need to be successful in their role. Get in the habit of asking your team members, “Do you have what you need to be successful in your role?” You might not be able to fill all the requests, but don’t avoid asking the question out of fear that you won’t be able to get them what they need anyway. You might be surprised at how much you can get for your team. Proactively inform your staff of additional resources and services available to them – be they professional development opportunities (There’s an open session for anyone wanting to learn about hip replacement surgery next month!) or personal support services (Just a reminder that the Employee Assistance Program is available to all employees and household members!). Chances are, at some point someone on your team will benefit from these resources, even if you never find out about it. You might not get a thank you card, but it will be appreciated.
- Create a “safe zone” for your team. This should be a place where interpreters can decompress, share a laugh, give a high five, offer a hug, say “hello” and occasionally bid a fond “farewell.” Designate zones for private work and community space. Interpreters need private space so they can debrief after emotional encounters or concentrate on study. Interpreters need community space so that they can collaborate and build professional relationships with their teammates. The atmosphere should be relaxed and welcoming. It doesn’t have to be like walking into a Hilton Hotel lobby (but if you have the budget for that, I won’t stop you!), but a few comforts won’t break the bank and will create a bit of an oasis for hardworking interpreters. If we expect interpreters to have excellent skills interacting with other human beings, providing a space that allows their humanity to be nurtured and developed can’t hurt.
What things have you done to create a good work environment for your team of medical interpreters?
Feeling like you need an oasis in your workday? Join us for Interpreting Is (Not) for the Feeble, an online continuing education course for medical interpreters, and develop strategies that you can use for yourself or with your whole team.