Every organization or workplace in healthcare or any other industry has a workplace culture, whether those working there are conscious of it or not. The best workplace cultures are consciously and proactively created by everyone involved, and the worst cultures exist without a shred of intention.

But what exactly is workplace culture, and how do you know your organization’s culture? This is a question worth pondering. what-exactly-is-workplace-culture-anyway

Workplace Culture in Plain Sight 

According to the Harvard Business Review, workplace culture can be seen as “the ways people in the organization behave and the attitudes and beliefs that inform those behaviors (i.e., ‘the way we do things around here’) — including formal, stated norms as well as implicit ways people work and interact.”

Indeed puts it this way:

“Work culture is a collection of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that make up the regular atmosphere in a work environment. Healthy workplace cultures align employee behaviors and company policies with the overall goals of the company while also considering the well-being of individuals. Work culture determines how well a person fits into their environment at a new job and their ability to build professional relationships with colleagues. Your attitude, work-life balance, growth opportunities, and job satisfaction all depend on the culture of your workplace.”

The culture at your workplace might be friendly, supportive, cold, cynical, laissez-faire, strict and controlled, or energetic and fun. As Indeed mentions above, healthy cultures align with what the company is trying to accomplish and how employees behave. However, how leadership behaves is a crucial factor that cannot be overlooked or overstated.

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Whether you think about it or not, workplace culture exists and significantly impacts your workdays and how you feel about your work, colleagues, and even your patients.

 Is there a nurse bully on your unit who makes everyone miserable, but the administration ignores that unhappy reality? The workplace culture is toxic and unhealthy, with weak leadership.

Dr. Renee Thompson, the CEO and founder of the Healthy Workforce Institute, states, “Numerous recent studies reveal the direct negative impact a negative culture and disruptive conduct have on employees and patients. One particular report from McKinsey sums it up nicely. Their research shows that toxic workplace behaviors are the #1 cause of burnout and intention to leave.”

Nurse attrition from either individual workplaces or the profession as a whole is often a cultural issue. Dr. Thompson continues, “Burnout and turnover result from bad behavior and a bad culture. Therefore, culture and conduct are more important than anything, especially now.”

Do the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and other leadership team members regularly participate in rounds, meet with staff to understand what is and isn’t working, and take proactive steps to address problem areas? The workplace culture is geared towards being open, communicative, and highly functional.

Do those same executive team members communicate organizational goals, praise employees’ hard work, offer financial bonuses, give generous stipends for CEUs, pay for employees’ education or certifications, or make sure that there are plenty of other amenities that employees appreciate and use? The culture is highly focused on employee well-being and retention.

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Workplace culture can manifest in areas like:

  • Employee wellness
  • What types of behavior are encouraged, tolerated, or not at all welcome
  • The methods by which employee success is measured
  • The quality of communication and the company’s level of transparency
  • The values that inform the organization
  • How employees are kept engaged
  • Efforts related to employee satisfaction and retention
  • Teamwork
  • General morale


We’re All in it Together

Culture is an inside job, and no one who’s part of a workplace can escape the fact that they’re direct contributors to that culture. Everyone is always responsible, from the smallest interaction between two maintenance team members to the end-of-quarter email from the CEO that’s being sent to all employees. From the moment each person walks through the door until the moment they leave for home, they are in the mix when it comes to the culture of the work environment.

The Harvard Business Review states, “As employees engage with the culture as a resource to shape their skills and habits instead of a mandate decreed by top managers, culture becomes ‘expressed and reified through practice’.”

Both the individual and the collective create workplace culture. It is a dynamic force that must be fed, watered, and tended to so it can be a positive force that uplifts the majority whom it touches.

Examine your workplace for clues about its culture and your place within it. How does it feel? How do you contribute? And if it’s not a culture that fits you well, that is a sign that finding a new professional home may be in your best interest. After all, cultural fit is more than a buzzword. It’s a testament to whether a workplace and an employee truly belong together

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Keith Carlson
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