By Tiffany Ferguson, LMSW, CMAC, ACM

I am so excited for the pre-conference session at CMSA National this year where my fellow colleagues and I will be discussing relevant topics in the case management leadership space.   My specific session will surround the topic of managing your staff.  I have to say that in the beginning I struggled a little bit with this topic, because although I love running teams, my mind always goes back to those ‘difficult employees.’  In my presentation I will be revisiting the relationship between a leader and a manager, review successful tips for performance management, and discuss how outcomes are achieved when we invest in the team by building community rather than just manage employees.

In putting together this presentation one held belief stuck in my mind that was predominant in my younger years as a manager, director, and executive of case management departments and hospital divisions.  I remember how often I would refer to my team as family and in private when managing my staff, I would consider them like my children.  I can think of many of my peers who were parents and would similarly make the comparison of their staff as children.  The comparison was not to be degrading but the acknowledgement that with our children whom we love and spend our time fostering and developing their skills into successful adults is similar to the energy we expend in developing our staff as professionals.  We also know that children thrive best in supportive environments with clear guidelines and consistent boundaries.   However, when putting this presentation together I came to a new understanding and am challenging all prior constructs.  You can care for your team with compassion and value their contributions, but you are not their parent.  The comparison of your employees as family creates problems when you become blind to your deliverables because you are accommodating for those that cannot deliver.

Harvard Business Review describes how branding your workplace environment as family can be toxic. The article challenges the effects of using familial ideology in the workplace environment. Joshua Luna (2021) writes in his article, ‘The Toxic Effects of Branding Your Workplace a “Family”’, how some family attributes can actually harm the workplace when professional and personal lines blur to the extent that the two can become undifferentiated.  There is also a power dynamic and exaggerated sense of loyalty that can become harmful to employees, when they act in a way that is ‘harmful to the family’ or a ‘betrayal’.  Although, we may have felt these emotions in the workplace since so much of our time is spent in that environment.  The reality is that we are still professionals who are driving towards a common objective and thus we much set expectations as such.

Rather than setting the standard of our workplace as a family, tied to the potential existence of dysfunction, we should step back and consider our workplace as a community. Everyone is there because they chose to be, each serving a role towards the common objective to achieve the mission or goal of the organization. Each person selected or entering the work community is assumed to already be a professional, not striving towards. They are evaluated based on their contributions, communications, and promotion of the stated objectives.  They understand their purpose and can rely on support networks within and outside of the community.  They can also maintain a healthy balance of their work and professional self.

I encourage readers to check out our pre-conference discussion on leadership as I dive deeper into the topics on how to build a workplace community that connects to a common purpose.

References: Luna, J. A (October 27, 2021). The Toxic Effects of Branding Your Workplace a “Family”, Business Management, Harvard Business Review Retrieved from

Join us for an unforgettable conference experience where you can dive into educational sessions, network with industry professionals, and unwind in style. Pack your swimsuits and prepare for a refreshing blend of learning and leisure. See you by the pool!

Bio: Tiffany Ferguson, MSW, ACM, CMAC is CEO of Phoenix Medical Management, Inc., the case management company. Tiffany serves is an adjunct professor at Northern Arizona University, Department of Social Work and on the American College of Physician Advisors (ACPA) Observation Subcommittee. Tiffany is a regular contributor to RACmonitor, Case Management Monthly, serves on the editorial board for CMSA Today, and commentator for Finally Friday. She is a weekly correspondent on SDoH for the news podcast, Monitor Monday. After practicing as a hospital social worker, she went on to serve as Director of Case Management and quickly assumed responsibilities in system level leadership roles in Health & Care Management, which includes CM, UR, CDI, HIM, and coding. She has held c-level responsibility for a large employed medical group which included value-based arrangements, PCMH, and outpatient care management. Tiffany is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and received her MSW at UCLA. She is a licensed social worker, ACM, and CMAC certified.