The Impact of Creating a Supportive Work Culture

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” ~ Brené Brown

Two things I felt necessary to start with today – a photo of a new member of our family and a quote from Brené Brown. Part of the meat of what we will be talking about this week is showing up as we are at work, and feeling supported in the face of vulnerability and authenticity – this means sharing who we are with our colleagues and co-workers, as in “if you really knew me…”

If you really knew me, you would know that I am a hopeless animal lover, with many soft spots including my daughter’s persuasion for months to get her own puppy despite our recent big move and owning 2 senior dogs and 2 cats, one being quite senior. Honestly, if you knew/know me, this would make sense! Ashley, the new puppy, is beyond sweet.

Also, if you really knew me, which you likely do if you follow my blog on Sundays, you would know that I am very inspired by Brené Brown’s work and refer to her often. She just came out with a new book, Braving the Wilderness, and my much-anticipated copy arrived this week.

Supporting others at work

Have you ever gone to work, or a version of a place of work, and thought “Wow, so-in-so really doesn’t look well today – I wonder what is wrong?” Have you then taken that thought and acted upon it? I can certainly say both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to that question. The times that I chose not to reach out to a colleague, or someone at work, was probably because I was too mined in my own workload or stressors. If you already feel time pressure and mounting demands, it can be tempting to keep your eyes straight ahead to just get through the day. However, taking the medical profession as an example, asking a physician colleague how they are or if they need help, can truly make a difference.

The Canadian Conference on Physician Health just took place last weekend in Ottawa. My husband Colin and I would have loved to have gone, but unfortunately, we are still settling in from our recent move. Based on their Twitter feed, burnout remains a pressing concern in physician health. Practicing civility and kindness towards one another, whether it be online or in person, are one avenue toward allowing physicians to open up about their feelings and concerns before detrimental consequences ensue, such as either burnout or other serious mental health issues.

Authentic leadership

This supportive work environment really begins from the top down. One of the main contributors to physician burnout is the organization physicians work in. For other workplaces, it may be at an owner/boss/manager/CEO/superintendent or other level. I can speak from the physician point of view, some of the metrics by which physicians are evaluated make it seem like productivity and numbers are more important than values such as integrity, compassion and empathy. Such a value mismatch can be a dangerous territory for all sides involved.

Mike Robbins is considered an expert in teamwork, leadership and emotional intelligence, who talks about ‘bringing your whole self to work’ in his TEDx talk Bring Your Whole Self to Work, and also has a book by the same name coming out in 2018. He very eloquently says that people want to be seen, heard and valued, not just what they do, but who they are. He also talks a lot about being authentic and vulnerable at work and the courage it takes to do so. The trickle effect of creating this supportive work culture is that everyone can be their best self.



Marie Forleo’s interview with Brené Brown – Braving the Wilderness & How We Can Belong to Each Other & Ourselves (a must see in my opinion and you may need tissue at the end)

Mike Robbins podcast – Bring Your Whole Self to Work

CMAJ News – Promoting Physician Health in a Performance-Based Profession



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