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Why Culture Matters: Are Leaders Unknowingly Depleting the Energy of the Workforce?


By Danna Beal, M.Ed.
International Speaker
Author and Coach



See all this Month's Articles

Original Publish Date: October 9, 2018

Healthcare, by its very nature, is based on compassion and caring for others. A compassionate and cooperative culture is required to deliver services that ensure patient satisfaction, patient safety, good outcomes, efficient services, and clear communications. Unfortunately, workplace cultures are often a web of egos that are battling and competing for power, managers disempowering employees, and co-workers hurting and sabotaging one another. The fearful environment is fraught with reactions and counter-reactions. Gallup’s poll on the State of the American Workplace reports a 68% rate of employee disengagement with “The Boss from Hell” stated as a common reason. Working in a wide variety of healthcare environments, I have seen workplace dysfunction in epidemic proportions. The percentage of people in healthcare describing symptoms of a toxic workplace is alarming. Imagine what it would do to the bottom line if engagement could be increased by 10%, 20%, 30% or more. These are not unrealistic goals, but awareness and understanding of authentic, heartfelt leadership must be a top priority.

Leaders who don’t know how to build relationships and manage people are the source of much of the pain and dysfunction in workplaces today. Emotional Intelligence, according to author, Daniel Goleman, accounts for 90% of the skills needed to be a leader. Leaders lacking the courage, clarity, and self-reflection required in Emotional Intelligence cause unrecognized costs to organizations. Workplace culture is a reflection of the sentiments, attitudes, and actions of the leadership. Pressure coming from the top pushes down through the management to employees, resulting in a depletion of energy and spirit needed to work and provide the services. Untrained and fear-based leaders have created environments of gossip, blame, shame, one-upmanship, rivalry, suspicion, lack of teamwork resulting in unidentified expenses, not seen on spreadsheets. Without a foundation of love and respect for humanity, compassion is just a word and cannot extend to patients, family, co-workers, vendors, or any relationships.

Other costs due to a toxic or disengaged culture are disloyalty, turnover--which can amount to 30% to 200% of annual salaries, an interruption in continuity, disruption in communication, burnout, low morale, absenteeism, accidents, and increased industrial claims. The time wasted in conflict, internal competition and drama cannot be calculated.

In addition, there is no way to measure the untapped potential of people working in toxic environments—what they might have contributed in a love-based, respectful, and energized environment. Innovation and service improvement arise in a trusting and supportive environment. People working in dysfunctional cultures begin withdrawing, holding back their contributions, looking over their shoulder, and withholding communication while looking for another job.

Ego-driven Leaders

Sometimes to understand what I call enlightened leadership, it is helpful to look at what is not leadership—ego driven leaders who operate from artificial power. Rather than empower others, they are concerned with their own image or identity. These are some of the roles an ego-driven leader takes:

  1. The Dictator/Bully
  2. Star of the Team/Know-it-all
  3. Critical/ Fault Finder
  4. Discounter/Credit Stealer
  5. Empire Builder
  6. Placating Patronizer
  7. Micro-Manager
  8. Martyr/Self-Righteous

These imposter leadership roles are masks intended to disguise fears, inadequacies, lack of power, desire for control, need for recognition, and ultimately, lack of self-acceptance. These leadership styles are all fragile and fail in the face of a crisis.

Conversely, the qualities and traits of enlightened leaders who are powerfully based in love and authenticity: vision, courage, humility, integrity, compassion, trust, defenselessness (non-defensive) and affinity. These leaders do not shrink and cower in times of stress, high pressure, anxiety, and disruption.

What is your workplace culture? Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Does our culture allow mistakes and are people empowered to do their jobs?
  2. Do our leaders honor, respect and genuinely support those they lead?
  3. Are compassion and trust the basis of the culture?
  4. Is teamwork strong and based on clear, common goals?
  5. Is recognition and appreciation frequent, both privately and publicly?
  6. Are employees inspired, committed, and energized to do their work?
  7. Are leaders and employees personally responsible and not afraid to accept blame?
  8. Does our culture sincerely value the diversity in our workplace and does leadership embody it?
  9. Do employees feel free to contribute from their deepest creativity and insights?
  10. Can employees give feedback regarding problems, issues, etc. without fear of retaliation?
  11. Do our employees provide compassionate, efficient, warm-hearted service?

Solution—Infusion of Universal Love and Compassion

What can you do as leaders and individuals to rebuild relationships and create a compassionate culture? The workplace culture of disengagement and fear can be remedied with enlightened leadership and an infusion of love and compassion. I teach a BE LOVE model as the foundation for all actions in the workplace. When you operate from the power of Universal Love, the results are greater than anything attainable by artificially powered egos. I suggest a transformation that includes these actions:

  1. Incorporate and teach mindfulness and meditation for clarity of mind and inspiration of the soul. In a harried, stressful environment, pausing, breathing, and short mindfulness exercises will bring reduce anxiety provide alignment with authentic power. It is counter-intuitive but slowing down helps you accomplish more.
  2. Be willing to face your own fears of inadequacy so that you do not have to fear exposure or protect your ego image. The “Personal Restoration Plan” is the inner path to freedom, self-actualization, and authentic power.
  3. Embody compassion and authentic power. Do not tell others what to do. Be what you want them to be. BE LOVE and the correct action will arise from that.
  4. Practice a "You can do it" attitude and focus on other’s strengths, rather than their weaknesses. You actually energize and empower others when you believe in them.
  5. Be personally responsible and recognize that when you blame others, you are giving up your own power.
  6. Honor the spirit in others that is residing beneath the self-created identities that are battling and competing for power and validation.
  7. Practice forgiveness of yourself and others. It takes immense energy to hold others responsible for your life and emotions.

Today’s healthcare culture needs healing and restoration. Rebuilding relationships starts with individuals having the courage to follow their own inner path to be restored to their true selves. When leaders go through their own “Personal Restoration” they have the ability and power to impact many people. Through self-actualization, enlightened leaders begin a process of unraveling the chain-reactions of blame and fear by replacing them with trust, compassion, honor, and, ultimately, success.

Danna Beal, M.Ed., lives in the Seattle, WA area where she is an international speaker, author, retreat/workshop leader, and executive coach. She has spoken to thousands of businesses and conferences and has been on countless radio shows, podcasts, and webinars discussing “Extraordinary Leadership” and “Workplace Culture” based on her book, “The Extraordinary Workplace: Replacing Fear with Trust and Compassion.” Her audiences and clients have included: Seattle Science Foundation--Spine Surgeons Grand Rounds, Kaiser Permanente Grand Rounds, Oakland, CA, AHRA, Orlando, FL, Federal Aviation Administration, Overlake Hospital Perioperative Conference, Radia, numerous physician practices and hospitals. Her website is www.dannabeal.com.