The 3 Tenets that Serve as the Foundation for a Healthy Work Environment

First- what is the difference between the terms Proactive and Reactive environments?

I can’t say it enough that staff need to feel empowered to flourish. Providing a proactive environment is paramount.

But what does that mean? That means that when something goes amiss, the employee doesn’t feel like they will be blamed or shamed. Leadership does not confront the error as a “fault.” Over the years, I have learned that by treating errors as an opportunity to learn, staff are more receptive. They are more receptive in owning up to the error, they are more receptive in helping to participate in the root cause and they are more receptive to assist in the creation of solutions.

A reactive environment is an environment where when something happens—everyone from the top down- looks for who is to blame. It creates an environment where no one wants to own up to it because they will be humiliated and reprimanded. I have seen this in action. Blame is placed on people and not the process itself. Solutions are not the basis for this type of search. The search is basically for the “who done it.” Not many can flourish or feel empowered in this type of working environment.


How can you provide support?

One simple way is by practicing what you preach. Ensure that when something occurs that the proactive approach is role modeled. The staff get to see it in action. The process is reviewed and the person who made the error is not singled out. Typically, I will do a staff meeting or huddle to update the process. Everyone knows who made the error but seeing management refrain from singling them out or say their name specific to the incident is important. They see that when something happens, they will not be blamed, that circumstances will be addressed in a manner to ensure errors do not occur again from that process.

Another simple way to show support is to listen. Have the “open door” policy to allow staff to feel safe enough to come and discuss matters with you. They need to trust that what is said in your office, stays in your office. This makes it much easier for staff to work on issues and to let you know what is happening behind the scenes.

When errors are made, staff trust that they have your support. I have found that in a proactive environment, the staff beat themselves up more for errors than you could ever do. Still, no one wants errors to occur. The best way to address them is to look at their root cause and determine where the breakdown in process occurred. In doing so, everyone is invested in addressing the issue for viable solutions.


Who needs structure? We are all adults here….

Staff need structure as much as they may say they don’t. Implementing a “Code of Conduct” that everyone adheres to contributes to a proactive environment. The Code of Conduct is a tool that helps management stop bad or disruptive behaviors. Everyone has heard the statement; one bad apple can spoil the bunch? Nothing will dampen a happy, healthy environment quicker than an employee not pulling his or her own weight, doing things that are against the rules or exhibiting aggressive behaviors. Having a Code of Conduct in place, that everyone including management supports, help provide the necessary foundation for a healthy work environment.

Ensure your Code of Conduct encompasses the entire spectrum of what will not be tolerated. Along with it, include a policy that clearly delineates what happens when the code is violated. Things to include are negative behaviors such as gossiping, passive aggressive behaviors, to the more egregious ones, such as stealing time, using cell phones for social media on company time, etc. In the policy, clearly outline what will occur with the first violation, such as a verbal discussion. The second violation would warrant a written warning and a third violation may result in being terminated.


Communication?? We talk all the time!

Most of the problems in the workplace are interpersonal. And most of the time it stems from poor communication or misperceptions. What the sender is saying is not being received by the receiver in the way in which it was intended.

This is probably the most difficult, yet the most important part of fostering a healthy work environment. Perhaps, the messiest as well.

I start by discussing communication and misperceptions. I take it further by doing an in-service on communication. I make the commitment as management to ensure that even if communication is messy and difficult- we will stick with it and get through it without taking what is said personally. I work very hard to help team members get to the root of the issue.

9.9 times out of 10, it is misperception. Clearing it up helps to ensure that the environment stays healthy.

I have an “open-door” policy where staff can come into my office and say whatever it is they need to say in the moment to blow off the energy and get it out. From there, they can calm themselves or ease their frustrations and when the timing is appropriate, we will start the process of getting to the root cause of the issue.

When issues or misperceptions are allowed to fester and go un-checked, the environment can get toxic in a hurry. Small teams may have staff members going to other staff members to talk about their issues. This is not only a drag on the other staff who were not involved but can quickly devolve into people taking sides and even larger communication problems.

I have learned over the years, that no matter the challenges in meeting these matters head on, it is truly the best way to keep your staff happy.

Again, this needs to be role-modeled. They need to be able to trust that if they take the step to be open and communicate, that they will not be humiliated in any way and what they say is not taken personally. The staff member will need to see an honest attempt at getting to the root of the issue.

Once your team develops that trust, I see them take this on themselves with success. It is wonderful to see. They know that if the situation does not necessarily go as planned, they can come to me, and I can offer advice or mediate to help.

In today’s challenging environment as left-over stress from COVID, the healthcare worker shortage, and now financial fears, keeping your team and keeping them happy is vital to your organization’s success. Ambulatory Surgery Centers are amazing places to work yet are still stressful environments as we deal with patients, family members and their surgical care.

As managers, it is our duty to actively ensure for the best work environment for the team. This does not happen without effort. Call Custom Surgical Consultants today, I have many pearls, and success stories to share. I can offer advice and mentorship as part of our many programs up to and including acting as your mentor. We live and breathe ambulatory surgery and we love what we do, so let us help you be the absolute best you can be!

Providing a proactive environment directly affects patient safety. Stay tuned for the next blog on Fostering Patient Safety.

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