Tips for helping to calm down a bad workplace environment.
1. Set clear goals
"A common issue across healthcare organizations is that goals are often unclear, with unrealistic expectations-and employees’ buy-in and recommendations often aren’t part of the goal-setting process. It's critical for leaders in healthcare to set very specific, achievable goals, while encouraging feedback from employees.”
-David Lareau, CEO of Medicomp Systems, Washington, DC, a physician-driven provider of clinically contextual patient data solutions
2. Make it safe for people to share ideas
“When you make transparent communication a priority, it leaves little room for toxic rumors to spread and people trust you more. When they trust you, they feel safe to share their ideas and feedback as well as ask questions. The result is a healthier and more inclusive workplace.”
-Lisa Grabl, President, CompHealth, a national leader in healthcare staffing located in Salt Lake City, Utah
3. Ask what you can do better
“Sometimes change needs to start with you. Talk to your people and ask for feedback on what you can do to make their jobs better. Be open to the feedback and then make it a priority to follow through with any suggestions you commit to.”
-Lynne Gross, president, RNnetwork, a leader in the travel nursing industry located in Boca Raton, Florida
4. Identify the problem
“Talk to your people to find out what is causing the toxicity and then work with them to find a solution. Including them in the process ensures you address their specific concerns and empowers them to be a part of the solution.”
- Bill Heller, president, Weatherby Healthcare, one of the nation’s leading locum tenens staffing agencies located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
6. Implement peer coaching programs
“Implementing peer coaching programs and tools that preserve personal well-being and encourage professional growth helps provide clinicians with added support to effectively mitigate the pressures that can lead to a toxic work environment.”
7. Enhance communication and connection
“Fostering better communication and connection with patients through peer observation and feedback improves bedside manner, encourages clinicians to evaluate themselves and has a big impact on reducing the stressors that lead to burnout.”
8. Empower HR
“Ensure that the HR function becomes a true business partner. Educate HR in the daily functions so that HR managers have credibility when managing difficult relationships. Executives can support HR by providing the tools they need to be successful in a healthcare environment by truly educating them on the different functions and practices of the healthcare workforce, as well as the key business goals and pain points. This will create not only a stronger working relationship with the HR department, but also will create a more confident and informed department.”
- Nathaniel Glasser, Epstein Becker Green
9. Re-evaluate your internal offerings
“Offer broad choices that meet varied needs of employees. This means different deductibles and voluntary benefits that complement a traditional health plan.
“Use a ‘benefit allowance’ strategy. Instead of just paying a percentage of each plan, provide a shopping cart for your employees and let them spend the money you provide on the benefits most important to them.
“Leverage technology and use brokers that understand this. The only way information can be provided with so many variables is to use a technology tool that allows the employee to easily see what is relevant to them.”
-David Reid, CEO, Ease, a leading HR and benefits software solution for SMBs, insurance brokers, and insurance carriers based in San Francisco
10. Conduct a climate survey
“There are many ways to conduct a climate survey, which allow companies to ask employees pointed questions about how they feel and, equally important, what they believe needs to be done to improve the workplace. This information can help inform decisions going forward and get an idea of the workforce culture without putting anyone on the spot. Don’t ignore results because they create challenges. Invest in improvement. That speaks volumes.”
11. Reset the power dynamic
“Too often healthcare organizations are so hierarchical that lower-level employees blindly defer to senior management or, in the case of hospitals or physician practices, the doctors. Implement an open-door and input-seeking culture that gives each employee a voice. Many innovations come from those in the trenches-not those in the towers.
12. Be mindful of behaviors
“Incivility has an impact on team dynamics and team performance, caregivers. People may perceive incivility to be a victimless crime; however, it has real impacts on patient care. Constructive feedback in the form of debriefs would be a great opportunity to bring this point home. The perception that people need to be rude to get results from their team is not only incorrect; the opposite appears to be true. Resources should be spent to educate all team members about the importance of civility … Should a caregiver not be receptive to constructive feedback and continue to behave in a hostile manner, it becomes a patient safety issue and should be escalated to the CMO office or HR.”
-Daniel Katz, MD, anesthesiology, Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City
“Too often organizations are reluctant to challenge or discipline bad actors, especially when those bad actors outperform in their areas of practice. This is especially prevalent in healthcare organizations where hierarchy allows for higher levels of insulation. But failing to do so can lead to low employee morale and harm productivity in other areas. A failure to act may also lead to a lawsuit, if the inappropriate conduct rises to the level of harassment or discrimination. Ultimately, the cost of providing fewer boundaries leads to higher liability. Work on applying uniform treatment early on and provide additional trainings for repeat offenders. Keep ahead of the rumors by providing appropriate, consistent messaging-even if details remain private.”
14. Consider training
“Sometimes ‘respectful workplace’ training is in order. Providing extra trainings may reinforce the importance of maintaining positive work environments, as well as providing an outlet for those that may feel unheard. Make sure that all senior leadership takes the training with the employees, which demonstrates a commitment to an improved work atmosphere. Including differing levels of seniority can also help break down the ever-present hierarchical barriers in the workplace.”
15. Be ergonomically friendly
“The physical aspect of any work environment is one the individual has more control over. Start with proper ergonomics. Strive to work in ‘neutral,’ avoiding prolonged or repetitive extension, especially with any loads. Vary your positions and movement patterns regularly."
-Gerard W. Clum, DC, executive committee and board member of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, a not-for-profit that informs and educates the general public about the value of chiropractic care in Georgetown, California