No one wants to work in an environment shrouded in negativity. It can be subtle and insidious, how morale is slowly leached from a workplace. You might not even see it at first, especially if you’re the boss and you’re busy trying to put out fires or anticipate good business decisions. Right under your nose, the insipid fog of complacency—the lack of forward momentum—and even discouragement can seep into your staff’s mindset. Suddenly, the impact hits, and you can almost see the morale dropping, like fast-moving clouds darkening a once lovely day.
For practices, low morale can have a significant impact on patient satisfaction and confidence. Building good relationships with patients is key to the success of many practices, especially family and general practices. Creating those relationships is normally the duty of practice staff, who need a strong sense of purpose and positive energy to make patients feel reassured in a medical setting.
Honestly, most people aren’t exactly warm and fuzzy about visiting a medical professional anyway. How are they supposed to be confident and comfortable when the medical practice, as a whole, lacks that sense of positivity and support that often results from strong morale among practice staff?
Whether you can feel this fog creeping in on your practice or not, it’s important to take steps to boost morale in order to keep your practice moving forward with a positive and productive staff.
Below are some steps you can take to infuse your practice staff with a little jolt of positive energy that will help them refocus their efforts on what’s most important: the care and health of your patients.
A quick way to lose your employees is to power through conversations without really hearing what your staff is trying to say. This is especially true when resolving a dispute or dealing with an error. Make sure you fully understand the entire story. Your staff is full of human beings, not robots. They’re not going to be perfect and they need to feel valued, so be sure to listen carefully in all matters. In fact, take a moment to remind yourself of that every day if you can.
Make sure you compliment or encourage more often than you criticize.
While we all need to be corrected from time to time, we also need to feel that our accomplishments are recognized—not just our failings. Take a moment at least once a week to watch your employees. Don’t do it systematically, but try to notice what they’re doing well and what they’re not. Don’t be stingy with the praise and you’ll find that any advice you offer doesn’t sting so much either. The encouragement can go a long way to improving the positivity of your staff’s overall mentality.
Do something fun together—not work-related.
Sometimes it’s good to get out and realize that you’re all real people when you leave the office. Schedule an outing once in a while. Maybe once a quarter, at least. It can be something fun that everyone is invited but not required to attend. And switch it up, so you touch on the various interests of your staff members. A strong team can often result from the bond that is built from interacting outside of the office.
Empower your staff by engaging them.
One source of a drop in morale is that your staff can feel disconnected from the outcomes and mission of your practice. Some staff members might need that extra connection that can come from giving them an important responsibility that is a personal investment for them. Sometimes having a specific mission or unique goal can help reconnect them to the practice and remind them of why they went into medical work to begin with.
Strictly enforce breaktime.
Everyone needs a break, but it’s easy sometimes to get bogged down in the mire of constant incoming calls or filing work that just has to get done. Make sure that your staff realizes that you expect them to take breaks, so they don’t feel guilty, unproductive, or somehow lacking for taking a few moments to themselves. Even the most motivated and productive workers can get burned out. Don’t let them do that to themselves.
Hold everyone accountable—good and bad, including yourself.
While being liberal with praise is important, it’s equally as important to make sure that you are appropriately addressing any failings that can have a significant impact on the rest of your staff or your practice. If one individual has become lazy about duties or has the wrong attitude about shared responsibilities, you will need to make sure to address the issue immediately. The rest of the staff needs to see that you’re serious about holding everyone to the same standard and that you’ll defend the others from unproductive or dragging members of the staff. A good team needs to know they can depend on you to put a stop to someone not pulling their weight.
Try a change of scenery every once in a while.
Sometimes a little change can make a big difference. If you need to have some training or continuing education, do it off-site with a little bagel breakfast or something for the attendees. Let your employees know you value them with the little things and make extra training or team building activities something to look forward to.
Aim for realistic goals, not the unachievable.
There’s nothing more disappointing that having a manager who expects you to accomplish unachievable, unrealistic goals. You feel constantly disappointed in yourself and dissatisfied with your work experience. Realistic, achievable goals are a necessity in any work environment. Revisit them each month, set new goals, and celebrate past accomplishments. Keep it simple, direct, and measureable and your employees will make greater strides than you can imagine if you take it in small chunks and realistic timeframes.
The morale of your staff is almost a barometer for the success of your practice. So if you see fewer smiles, lower energy, or a drop in productivity—it’s time for you to step into action and remind them of how important their work is and how much value they can add to the lives around them. It’s all too easy for them to forget sometimes.