Healthcare workers are leaving the industry at record rates, sometimes due to a toxic work environment. As physicians and staff begin to spread negative thoughts and ideas within a practice, morale and engagement decrease.

According to research published in the MIT Sloan Management Review, the beginning of 2021 saw above 40% of all employees looking to leave their jobs. That year, upward of 24 million employees did indeed quit, resulting in record numbers, dubbed as the “Great Resignation.” That 24 million consisted of 6% of all healthcare workers, which researchers deem a meaningful amount. Based on their findings, the study authors found a toxic work environment to be the primary motivation for quitting.

Authors of an International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health review examined how a toxic work environment negatively impacts healthcare workers. They found that disgruntled employees spread negative thoughts, noting that along with negativity, widespread sentiments of harassment, exclusion, and bullying can lead to depression, anxiety, stress, and burnout.

Physicians Need to Identify Problems That Lead to Toxicity

There are several qualities found in a toxic work environment: unethical behavior, verbal or physical abuse, lack of equity, poor diversity, feelings of exclusion, micromanagement of patient care, subpar leadership, and a heavily bureaucratic workplace.

While not every toxic workplace shares identical characteristics, physicians should bear in mind certain general tactics that can help to mend a toxic work environment. They first need to identify the problems that lead to toxicity and discuss the issues with colleagues and staff members.

Physicians should also involve HR as both a sounding board and as a resource for incorporating employee training seminars on how to foster a respectful work environment. Most importantly, physicians need to discipline known offenders, regardless of their level within the practice.

It may be challenging for employees who are not high level to manage working in a toxic environment when they are not able to enact change. An article in Forbes offers helpful strategies like seeking out supportive and sympathetic colleagues, finding a mentor to provide guidance, taking on mindfulness exercises like meditation and visualization, and setting limits or boundaries for work correspondence.