Cutting Through the Cynicism of the Healthcare Workforce With Authentic Appreciation

Friday, December 18, 2015

“Are you kidding me? They don’t care about us. It’s all about performance. If our department’s ratings are good, we’re ok. If not, we’re in trouble.”

In the current healthcare environment, medical staff are required to do much more in less time, feeling stressed, and in many cases experiencing burnout. Retaining quality, experienced medical professionals and trained staff is critically important in today’s healthcare climate. Discouragement and burnout occur more rapidly when employees do not feel appreciated or emotionally supported.

Medical practice managers across the nation feel frustrated, not knowing how to support employees and reward staff for the hard work they are doing. Managers often feel they don’t have many good options in trying to reward employees.

Negative Attitudes Among Helthcare Workers

Some work settings seem to just “ooze” cynicism, sarcasm, and a lack of trust. Probably the most intense cynical environments I’ve experienced are medical settings and hospitals (along with universities and long-term care facilities.) For example, in one training session with hospital staff, a nurse boldly spoke up and said, “I haven’t heard anything positive for five years, and now I’m supposed believe them when someone tells me they appreciate me? Ain’t happenin’!”


Getting Past Perceived Inauthenticity

You can never fully “prove” your authentic appreciation for a person and you can’t “make” someone believe you. At the same time, there are practical steps that can be taken that can help get past challenges of being perceived as not genuinely valuing your colleagues.

  • Only communicate appreciation when it is true. People have good “radar” for communication that isn’t true. If you try to “fake it”, any trust existing in your relationship will be undermined.
  • Acknowledge the interfering causes. Statements like, “I know I haven’t communicated much (if any) appreciation to you in the past…” or “I know we’ve had our conflicts and differences in the past…” and even, “I know you may think I’m saying this just because we’ve had the training on communicating appreciation…”
  • Communicate specifics. The more specific you can be about what the person does or the character quality you value, the greater probability that you’ll be viewed as honest (rather than some vague, general statement -- “I’m glad you’re part of the team.”)
  • Be consistent over time. If you communicate one message of appreciation every six months, the likelihood of being perceived as being genuine is low. Similarly, if you only communicate positive messages in front of others (especially, your supervisor), that also will lead to a perception of your doing the actions just “for show.”
  • Don’t focus solely on performance or on situations that benefit you directly. A nice way to communicate authentic communication is to identify non-work related skills that are positive (for example, their cheerfulness or how they treat others kindly).

There is no “magic bullet”. But we have found that the only way to get past other’s perceptions of whether our actions or statements are not “real” is to communicate appreciation to them repeatedly, over a period of time, and in the ways important to them.

Bottom Line

Is the lack of perceived genuineness of recognition, appreciation, and encouragement an issue in medical settings? Absolutely. Is it a deserved concern? Most probably. Can inauthenticity be successfully addressed? Yes. Is it worth the time and effort? Most definitely.

When employees and staff members truly feel valued and appreciated, good things happen. Staff morale improves. Conflict and bickering decreases. Compliance to policies and procedures increases. Absenteeism and tardiness decline. And managers enjoy their jobs more. (Being forthright, if your appreciation is viewed as authentic, you will “stick out” from your competitors and you will be able to attract and retain quality team members.)

Genuine encouragement is, unfortunately, the exception rather than the rule but authentic appreciation can be a powerful tool to cut through the fog of a negative work environment characterized by cynicism, sarcasm and a lack of trust.

About the Author
Paul White is a psychologist, author, speaker, and president of Appreciation at Work. He is the co-author of three books, including The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, and he has shared his expertise with Bloomberg Businessweek,,,, Fast Company,, Huffington Post LIVE, U.S. News & World Report, and Yahoo! Finance.
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