Healing Healthcare Teams : Vent with Intent

When healthcare teams don't get along, they need a way to vent, to unpack and share what has frustrated them. Providing this time can be scary for leadership: they don't want staff going down a rabbit hole of unrestrained complaining.

But, the truth is, if there are complaints, they are always present. By providing a structured, confidential space to share complaints, leaders can validate, leverage and put a boundary on them.

Our work has shown an immediate benefit to venting: teams of doctors, nurses and administrators actually work better together after initial venting sessions, because they have finally had a release valve for their frustrations.

Venting also yields something even more powerful: individual and team values.

When doctors, nurses and administrators complain about one other, they're telling us what they value, in people and workplace relationships.  Some top values include respect, timeliness, trustworthiness, and collaborative decision making.

The venting process gives each group a chance to see and share their values. And, you won't be surprised to know that many of them overlap across healthcare teams.  Sharing values becomes a turning point in team relationships, and serves as a foundation for building respect, collaboration and results.    

What do you think are the benefits of venting?   And, how do you think values and venting are connected? 

Healing Toxic Teams in Healthcare


There are so many great tools and practices to improve healthcare efficiency and performance. But, what if your team hates working together?  Then it doesn't matter what tool they're using.

Bad workplace relationships will make any tool a nonstarter.

When relationship issues get in the way of teamwork, colleagues don’t communicate respectfully or effectively. "Don't let the nurses take advantage of you." "Those doctors over there are hard to work with." "Don't believe anything that Department tells you". Examples are endless, but the theme is the same: a continuous cycle of mistrust, perpetuated myths, and an overall experience of being stuck.  The culture becomes toxic.  And, it tends to stay that way. 

Patients who witness this disrespect experience a lack of comfort and confidence in the services they receive. When teammates refuse to assist colleagues in the workplace “because it’s not my job”, critical tasks run the risk of being done ineffectively, poorly, or not at all. In organizations such as hospitals where small details can mean the difference between life and death, there is great risk when teams cannot communicate and will not work together. 

Toxic cultures don’t get better by trying to operationalize new team practices. They need a way to heal their old wounds, rally around shared values, and create a culture of cooperation. Otherwise, they have no hope of being able to effectively implement any improvements or efficiencies.  Team healing helps them let go of the past, build trust, and engage together with positive intent. 

Team healing isn't easy, and it takes time. But the results are worth it: improved patient satisfaction and engagement scores, mitigated risk, greater trust, more effective communication, more efficient projects and better quality of life at work.  And, who wouldn’t want to be part of a team like that?

Appreciate Some Appreciation

I don’t want to say thank you to people for doing their job.”

This came from a brave manager who raised her hand in front of 120 of her peers during a session I was leading on appreciation. 

Of course you don’t want to say, “Thank you for coming in on time today,” or “Thanks for writing up that report and emailing it to me!” 

Showing appreciation isn’t just saying thank you.  It’s not a generic “good job.”

Appreciation is a specific acknowledgement of something you observe about a team member or colleague.  It can be about something they’ve done or even the values they demonstrate at work. 

Research has actually proven that giving appreciation not only makes someone else’s day, but boosts your mood too.  Who couldn’t use some of that?  

 “I noticed how you offered to cover for Ben last night.  That showed your willingness to jump in and help out.  Thanks.”

You went above and beyond in that presentation.  Your delivery was warm, concise and hit the mark.  Well done.”

Appreciation can be given in person or electronically.  The delivery method isn’t as important as the fact that you say something specific and genuine.

As hardworking leaders and managers, share an example of appreciation someone has given YOU that made a big impact?   And - how do you like to give appreciation?  We know you’ve got some tips.  We’d love to hear.

Why You Gotta Be So Rude?

We work with lots of leaders and teams to improve their performance, through better communication, improved decision-making, and leveraged strengths.  We have a number of tools to address these challenges - and they work - but at the end of the day, it's all in the way clients carry them out: HOW client organizations communicate, or make decisions or acknowledge strengths - their attitude - makes all the difference.

Recent studies have shown that over 60% of employees experience incivility at work, and 40% are looking for other employment as a result.  Pause for a moment to look around the room you're in right now: most of the people you see have been on the wrong end of a bad attitude at work, and almost half are job hunting because of it.  Imagine what that's doing to the productivity of your organization. 

To move your teams from conflict to collaboration, they have to be grounded in their larger purpose:

  • WHO are we here to help?

  • WHAT are we trying to achieve?

  • And, most importantly, HOW am I showing up?

These are the anchors of civility and collaboration at work.  And they'll even renew your passion for what you do.

So, what's the prevailing attitude where you work?

Steve Salee, Partner, Wildfire Strategies