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Want a better workplace culture? Focus on the positive, not what went wrong


Mass General Brigham researchers found that sharing what went right instead of what went wrong can go a long way toward building a better workplace culture

Focus on the positives for a better culture: ©Monkey Business -

Focus on the positives for a better culture: ©Monkey Business -

For a better workplace culture, health care organizations should focus on what went right instead of what went wrong when reviewing care delivery, according to researchers from Mass General Brigham.

Researchers analyzed peer-to-peer positive feedback that was collected when caring for a dying patient as part of a mandatory mortality review process. Their findings suggest that standardized collection and sharing of positive feedback about what went right is a way to increase mutual appreciation among health care team members. In addition, it can provide information to leadership about the organization’s culture of teamwork, collegiality, and civility.

The findings were published in The Journal of Internal Medicine.

For the study, researchers analyzed survey responses from 388 physicians, 212 nurses, 64 advanced practice providers, and one respiratory therapist at four Mass General Brigham hospitals. Workers provided positive feedback to their peers about exceptional patient and family-centered care; a provider’s expertise and composure; and empathic peer support and effective team collaboration.

The analysis showed a clear pattern of feedback across specialties. According to the study, the positive feedback in medicine, neurology, hospice/palliative care, and surgery focused on patient care, while within emergency medicine, the focus was on expertise and composure.

Specific individuals were mentioned in most of the positive feedback, and nurses provided the most feedback among all the clinician types.

Researchers said that receiving and sharing positive feedback may help health care employees feel more valued at work and help alleviate burnout and attrition. The collection and sharing of positive feedback is a low-cost way for leadership to understand and improve the workplace culture based on the values of its employees. While safety reporting and mortality reviews are used to improve patient care, the positive feedback collected can help foster and improve culture, benefitting both patients and provider.

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health