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Would Joint Commission Think Your Healthcare Workplace Is Toxic?

Would Joint Commission Think Your Healthcare Workplace Is Toxic?

You’ve seen the headlines. Lateral harassment. Incivility at work. Adult bullying. Nearly every day, there is a story in the news about employees who are struggling with a toxic work environment.

Jana Raver works as an organizational expert and professor at Queen’s University School of Business. Her research into this issue shows that sixty percent of employees are exposed to disruptive behaviors at work and that the “bullies” are often women. That is bad news for healthcare–an industry which continues to be dominated by females.

Sixty percent. That makes workplace bullying a significant problem. But the bad news doesn’t end there. While six of every ten employees may fall victim to harassment, you can bet that the other four are affected by it indirectly. Inappropriate behaviors are distracting, especially for healthcare employees who must work as a team to meet the needs of their patients.

Ms. Raver says, “They start saying ‘this is not the place for me; I’m going to start looking for work elsewhere.’ And once you psychologically disengage from the organization then you’re not terribly motivated toward helping that organization to succeed, and you’ve always got one step out the door. Turnover is of course a logical consequence.”

This spells trouble, particularly for certified nursing assistants. Historically, the annual turnover rate for CNAs has exceeded 90%. If your organization has a “revolving door” when it comes to your nursing assistant staff, a culture of incivility only compounds the problem.

“Imagine how much more productive companies could be if they were to treat people with inclusion and respect and make sure that (workplace anti-harassment) policies are actually enforced,” Raver states.

This is exactly what the Joint Commission has in mind with their zero tolerance of disruptive or intimidating behaviors. Have you seen their statement on this issue?

“Intimidating and disruptive behaviors can foster medical errors, contribute to poor patient satisfaction and to preventable adverse outcomes, increase the cost of care, and cause qualified clinicians, administrators and managers to seek new positions in more professional environments. Safety and quality of patient care is dependent on teamwork, communication, and a collaborative work environment. To assure quality and to promote a culture of safety, health care organizations must address the problem of behaviors that threaten the performance of the health care team.”

The Joint Commission standards require that each organization institute “a code of conduct that defines acceptable and disruptive and inappropriate behaviors.” They also require that the institution “create and implement a process for managing disruptive and inappropriate behaviors.”

Creating policies that meet these Joint Commission standards are an important step. However, if your workplace has been infected with incivility, it’s going to take more than rubber stamping new policies to turn things around. Every employee, from the administration to the “front lines,” needs to participate in civility training. They need to understand the importance of civility–especially in a high stress environment like healthcare. The training should cover ethical behavior, teamwork and conflict resolution. And, it should emphasize this indisputable key point: that the power–and the responsibility–to overcome a culture of incivility rests within each of us.

So, to assess how your organization is doing when it comes to civility training, ask yourself one question. If a Joint Commission surveyor were to visit your facility tomorrow, would he or she think your workplace is toxic? If the answer is no, congratulations. Your employees are embracing civility! If the answer is yes, you’ve got some more work to do.