“One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.” – Kareem Abdul Jabbar
It is hard to find the right employees for your practice. You peruse many resumes, follow up with referrals, and have multiple interviews to finally decide on those potential star candidates you hope will be a great addition to your team.
When the new employees start you have high hopes that finally you have the team in place that will take your practice to the next level. But if you start seeing these red flags, your dream team may have turned into the night of the living dead.
All it takes is one employee to create a toxic work environment which impacts the whole team. It is like the saying, “one bad apple can spoil the bunch.” Toxic work cultures negatively impact productivity, creativity and long-term growth, which in turn can contribute to burnout, relational challenges and high turnover rates. Because of this, management needs to be able to identify traits of a toxic work culture before it is too late.
Here are five traits of cultural toxicity that are too critical to overlook.
1. Silos Mentality: It’s All About Me
Workplace silos are defined by a lack of collaboration and a focus on protecting self-interests. Individual goals become more important than the practice’s success. Unfortunately, this mentality overshadows the driving mission of the overall business and promotes organizational dysfunction. In other words, hiring a team player is an essential factor in hiring an employee for your practice.
Recommendation: Intentionally build project teams. Most projects require input from multiple departments and team members. Leverage this to your advantage by intentionally building team projects with employees from across your organization. For example, a team designing a marketing campaign could include your patient care coordinator, your aesthetician, and team members in marketing and production with a lead project manager. Building inter-organizational teams cultivates a culture that gradually breaks down silos.
2. This Could be a Reality Show
Some medical practices need to award Oscars instead of bonuses. These cultures are characterized by continual grandstanding and hypersensitivity that pulls employees into a seemingly endless cycle of conflict management. Even if you love Hollywood, your office is not the place to live that out. In other words, make your practice a drama-free zone.
Recommendation: Develop healthy approaches to conflict management. Ignoring workplace drama seldom works and, when left unaddressed, it can destroy your workplace culture. Whether you like conflict or not, successful leaders must strengthen their skills in addressing it. The health of your practice depends on it.
3. Gunning for You: Gossip Mills
Trust is one of the most basic requirements for a healthy work culture. When employees continually undermine one another, it leaves no foundation upon which to build respect and collaboration. If someone begins a conversation with, “Don’t tell anyone, but ...” you’d better beware. Or if an employee is constantly finding fault in other employees, you should see this as a big red flag. This backstabbing mentality will pull you into a poisonous conversation and eventually undercut organizational health. More importantly, it won’t be long before that same person targets you.
Recommendation: Refuse to be part of the cycle. When it comes to the “gossip mill,” each person is responsible for their own actions. As leaders, we must set a hard boundary that says, “I will not be part of any conversation intended to assassinate someone’s character. Period.” It is amazing how eff ective this approach can be in developing trust with your team. More importantly, if they know they can trust you, respect and influence follow close behind.
4. Leadership Instability
If management doesn’t seem to stick around very long, there is probably a good reason. Either the criteria used to select the practice administrator/ office manager is wrong or the culture will not allow him/her to succeed. In either case, the outlook for long-term organizational health is dismal unless major changes are made. If top leaders cannot succeed, the culture is probably the culprit.
Recommendation: Ask the hard questions. As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting diff erent results. Unfortunately, that is the approach many organizations take when it comes to replacing key leaders. In the rush to fi ll positions they:
• Use the same hiring processes
• Never change job or role descriptions
• Ignore organizational structure challenges
• Refuse to assess the corporate culture
This list could go on and on, but if the leaders at the top are not successful, someone needs to ask the hard questions. These usually begin with “why” and require the organization to look inward. It is much easier to blame the leader, but the real problem just might lie within.
5. The Old Guard: Protect the Status Quo
Derric Johnson, former creative consultant at Disney, once said “When your memories are greater than your dreams, it is time for a change.” Unfortunately, far too many organizations focus on protecting the status quo, or worse, longing for days long gone. Organizations that fail to focus on the future will probably miss it. In my experience, you see these problems with an employee who has been in the practice for years and is unable to embrace healthy changes or becomes threatened by new team members.
Recommendation: Look forward, not behind. Individuals or organizations are not defined by yesterday but how they shape tomorrow. One of the primary roles of management is to cast vision and lead forward. This requires an ability to see what is yet to be, and then lead your teams to make it a reality. You cannot do this if you are stuck in the quicksand of yesterday’s successes or failures.
Toxic work cultures lead to oppressive, dysfunctional and unhealthy working environments. Management needs to be able to identify what is causing the toxicity in order to design eff ective solutions that promote organizational health. If health is not an option, then you really only have one choice: Find the quickest exit. After all, life is too short to spend it fi ghting battles that can’t be won.
About the Author
Lisa Marie Wark, MBA
Ms. Wark is a multifaceted and solutions-focused senior management executive, business owner, and consultant accomplished in strategy planning and execution, operations leadership, P&L management, digital marketing and communications, and continuous improvements in medical practices. She is an action-oriented strategist adept in identification of areas of opportunity to positively impact patient care. She is the founding partner at TheBestYears.com, a CBD wellness company dedicated to thriving 55+ communities, and she has founded an upscale CBD skincare line called Ábaka. Ms. Wark serves as practice management faculty for leading medical aesthetic conferences. All of this experience allows her to approach every aspect of the practice with common sense expert analysis.