A toxic employee culture can have profound affects on the customer or patient experience. If employees are not treated by their leaders or by one another with kindness and respect, how realistic is it for us to expect they will treat customers and patients with kindness and respect?

Maybe you’ve heard or seen this phrase, “OK Boomer” tossed around a lot recently. It started when an older man (a Baby Boomer) criticized younger generations claiming they were lazy and unwilling to grow up. The video of the man was shown in split screen with a younger person (either a Millennial or Generation Z) holding a sign which countered his comments with, “Ok, Boomer.” That phrase became a popular trending hashtag on social media (#OKBoomer) and went instantly viral.

The phrase is intended to emphasize the divide between older and younger generations by dismissing the comments of the former and labeling them as being out of touch, irrelevant, and/or insignificant.

In short, it’s meant as an insult.

A Toxic Work Culture Negatively Affects The Patient Experience

Have you ever worked in a place where insults like this are tossed around? I know I have and it can make the work day pretty miserable.

When divides like this exist — whether among or between different departments, different levels of authority, or different generations — it can sometimes feel as though you’re working in an environment of us against them.

This builds resentment and distrust and even cynicism, all of which lead to a fractured and rather dysfunctional organizational culture.

Now think about this. If this is how employees are talking to one another, what in the world are they saying in front of or to their patients?

When the employee culture is toxic, it will inevitably carry over and negatively affect the patient experience.

One way to combat this us against them mentality is to create a culture where every employee feels empowered, supported, and a part of something bigger than individual job titles. We do this by connecting employees to purpose, by connecting every employee to their role on the care team.

When You Take Care Of Employees, They Will Take Care Of Patients

In healthcare, patients don’t experience healthcare vertically within one department. They experience care horizontally, across all lines of business. From their first phone call or visit to the website. To the valet parking, front reception, security guards, nurses, doctors, housekeeping, cafeteria employees, sterile processing, environmental services, and more. Yet, too often, these areas function in silos as if they had blinders on.

Lack of employee alignment is one of the greatest challenges in healthcare. When everyone is connected to purpose, and everyone is focused on creating the ideal patient experience, it helps to break down the organizational silos.

Many organizations offer diversity training to bridge the gap and create better understanding between and among employee groups. This kind of training is good, but it’s not a one and done. If the organizational culture is one where employees feel pitted against one another, then diversity training or any other kind of training will be forgotten as soon as the class ends.

However, when the organizational culture is strong and employees are connected to purpose and are aligned toward the same common goal, they feel supported and valued. And they will carry this feeling with them as they interact with and care for patients, families, and one another.

Toxic work cultures lead to resentments and employees treating one another badly. The #OKBoomer is just the latest example. But I’m sure you can think of others. We’ve often heard the phrase that “nurses eat their young.” Imagine how a new nurse might feel when she or he hears this or experiences this first-hand? Will they be excited about their new career as a healer and nurse or will they start their new job with their defenses up, fearful of making mistakes or being a victim of workplace bullying?

As leaders, it’s our job to help foster a culture where every employee feels valued and part of the team. This is what world-class organizations do. They invest in their employees because they know that a good employee experience means a good customer experience.

Remember, when you take care of your employees, they will take care of their patients.