Understanding the Politics and Culture of UPMC Health System

UPMC is one of the best health care systems in Western Pennsylvania. It has attracted the best physicians and the best medical practitioners from all over. It has since become a seven billion dollar employer and now employs around 50,000 workers working in about 20 hospitals. It has also engaged in integrating Information Technology with its operations. The UPMC also encourages civic responsibilities and engages the members of the communities around the system to assist in the delivery of health care.

Any organization has culture and politics. Organizational culture is very important because this is how the employees develop loyalty to the organization and help them deal with different issues that they face. Most of the time, the culture of the organization flows out of the vision, the mission and the shared values of the people within the organization. Although the connotation of politics has been regarded negatively, it is really not good or bad. It is the way that power is being handled in the organization.

The politics of the organization also refers to the way that authority, influence and power are being handled within the organization. This may also refer to the kind of relationships between and among the employees and between the management and the employees. A hospital may enjoy state of the art equipment and the most advance training and expertise in certain aspects of the health care industry yet the people who are working for it should be treated properly. The organizational culture and politics therefore are very important to ensure the continuous survival and growth of the UPMC Health System.

By interviewing some of the medical practitioners who are working for the UPMC and by observing their interactions with each other and with their managers and bosses, the organizational culture of UPMC may be characterized accurately. The politics of the organization is more difficult to describe unless one has experienced the blunt effect of politics and the way it is being used by some in furthering their own interests and career advancement within the system.

Nonetheless, the key to observing the politics of UPMC is the relationships among employees, the rewards and the reprimands being received and the preferential treatment that some people receive within the organization. Organizational Culture of UPMC The culture of an organization may be seen both in the formal and informal aspects of the UPMC. The formal management practices of the organization constitute the rules that are being followed and in time, will become part of the tradition and routine followed by the employees and managers in the organization.

The management practices and the policy of the system are clearly stipulated through the company policies. The behavior of the employees is prescribed through this set of policies. Hence, deviant behavior such as absences, tardiness, mistreatment of patients and incorrect handling of records are frowned upon and will be allotted the punishment prescribed. Reprimands and rewards are also part of the culture of UPMC. There are instances that such rewards and reprimands are not dealt out correctly but at least most of the time, these are given based on the performance and merit of the employees.

Another part of the organization’s culture that helps it endear to the people of the community is the way that it encourages volunteers to take part in the programs of the organization. These volunteers are usually young persons who can assist in the simplest activities in the hospitals. The good thing out of this practice is the way that the community becomes integrated with the programs of the hospitals within the system. The composition of the workforce of the organization is already diverse. Ethnicity, religion or gender is definitely not an issue in order to become a part of UPMC.

This is not to say, however, that the system is already perfect. There are instances that it could be improved and bring in more diversity in the organization. Such diversity enhances the creativity and the reach of the system in the society. Although there may be some ways in which slight prejudices are shown, on the whole the culture of UPMC respects and promotes diversity. UPMC also encourages internal competition. This is a direct consequence of the rewards and reprimands system in dealing with employees.

Good performance gets rewarded and bad ones are reprimanded. But there are also informal management practices in the system. The system has established a coaching and mentoring program to help employees deal with the challenges they face more effectively. This process also helps temper the spirit of competitiveness in the organization, which may be harmful if taken to an extreme. The relationships between and among the employees are really important in the harmonious functioning of the organization.

The coaching and the mentoring sessions therefore helps connect the employees together and along the process, they receive social support with the challenges that they face at work. This also helps lessen the conflicts and frictions that are bound to occur in the relationships within the system. The conflict resolution process in the organization, however, is less pronounced. Unless conflicts are of professional nature, they are usually left to the individuals involved to resolve the conflicts by themselves.

Only if the performance of the job is involved will there be management intervention. Politics within the UPMC Another important concept in the organizational life of the UPMC is politics, which in its most neutral definition is a means of decision making or balancing power. Yet, in the office setting, however, just like the UPMC, politics may also refer to the way that individuals use connections and extra-formal means to get what they want—whether that be a promotion, preferential treatment or at least avoid penalties that they would otherwise deservingly get.

Merit, qualifications, experience and performance are ideally the bases used in offering a job or a promotion to employees or would-be employees in the organization. UPMC has a strong adherence to policy that would enable these bases as the standards for choosing who to reward or who to reprimand. Yet, that is not always the case. There are a number of politically savvy individuals in UPMC who can get away with some of their acts even if what they did, officially, are against the company policies. Thankfully, however, the occurrence of these kinds of workers is still infrequent and has not yet become a part of the organizational culture.

Since the UPMC depends on scientific and medical knowledge, there are training opportunities inside and outside of the organization to give chance to medical professionals to update their knowledge and learn the trends and issues in the contemporary field. While these training opportunities are advertised widely in the whole system, there are observations that there are doctors and nurses who get preferential treatment, not because of their qualifications alone but because of their connections with the persons who decide who will attend such conferences or training programs.

Previous affiliation to the University of Pittsburgh was also notice to be one of the factors that improved one’s chances of being chosen for such training programs. Another aspect of politics is the way that resources are allocated among the twenty hospitals in the UPMC System. The executives of the hospitals connected to the UPMC seek to gain the favor of the overall executive and the decision makers so as to ensure better facilities and resources to be allocated to their respective hospitals.

Destructive politics sometimes rear its ugly head when the executives tend to gang up against another executive whose hospital is doing well. Since the resources are fixed, even if they are sometimes abundant, politics is used to get ahead of the rest of the hospitals. Blatant gift-giving and influence peddling, however, is not openly practiced in the system and the practice of politics is done discreetly by those who want to benefit.

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