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Are you worried about a potentially toxic environment at your clinic? Or how to communicate—REALLY communicate—with your team to create a happy, healthy workplace? (Dare we use the coveted term “unicorn workplace?”) Then look no further than our most recent episode of Simple, Interrupted, where we spoke with Amy Newfield, CVT, and Dr. Sarah Wooten on breaking the cycle of bad habits and “work martyr culture” in clinics.

Breaking the cycle of toxic clinic culture

Everyone knows the signs of a breakdown in team dynamics:

  • Gossiping, openly or in whispers
  • Bullying and humor at the expense of others
  • Substance abuse
  • Passive leadership leading to a lack of accountability
  • High reactivity as team members take their stress out on packed schedules
  • Quiet observers who remain silent about everything around them

But responding after the fact rarely brings results. And hoping for an overnight change sets expectations too high. These issues require a deft hand BEFORE they become entrenched in the clinic culture. (Avoiding the dreaded “are they calling me out?” meetings that heighten team member stress)

Amy recommends touching in with everyone at LEAST once a month. This helps build a trusting relationship. And it ensures that employees feel comfortable approaching management with problems. It also removes the pressure of ONE person needing to shoulder the burden of a transition plan.

And when problems do (unavoidably) arise, Dr. Wooten recommends turning to Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication. These techniques emphasize ONE incident, eliminating dangerous global statements or references to a person’s character. They also ASK a person to change their behavior versus telling, garnering better results. (And avoid the dangerous words “never” and “always”)

Creating a happy, healthy, clean environment

It’s tempting to use the phrase, “we’re all family here.” But families are dysfunctional. And you want better for your clinic. You need to create a positive work environment to retain team members who want to brag about where they work.

And that starts with a quality wellness plan.

While everyone LOVES pizza and doughnuts, Amy recommends skipping them. They don’t have a place in your clinic. Opt for something healthy that will align with the work environment you want to create. And then ensure everyone gets the FULL breaks they need to enjoy their meals. (Remember, there are very few TRUE emergencies that should take a person away from their sandwich)

You don’t want a clinic of “Cushinoid dogs,” as Dr. Wooten puts it. This means managing your team’s “fight, flight, or freeze” systems. And if you help educate them to recognize how their bodies respond throughout the day (ARE they calming down?), you can avoid issues with cognitive ability. Take the time to address the mental AND physical well-being of your clinic.

Hint: It helps if you lead by example!

Aspiring to become a unicorn clinic

Employees in unicorn clinics recommend their workplace to friends and family. They have a team dynamic in all of their interactions. And you hear them discuss the practice EVERYWHERE. Owners and managers never need to worry about recruiting new employees because the clinic’s reputation works for them.

It’s a culture everyone aspires to.

And with the proper implementation, that goal isn’t out of reach.