One of the most common complaints I hear from nurses is that the atmosphere and culture on their unit is so negative.

Nobody smiles, nobody says hello, nobody says good things – everything is so negative. The boss doesn’t recognize the things we do right – he/she only reminds us of the things we do wrong. Moral is low and staff are miserable.

While some people might think: “Just get over it.” or “Do your job and stop whining.” There is a problem with that mindset.

A new movement called “Positive Organizational Psychology” is validating that a positive work environment (in all industries) leads to dramatic benefits for employees, employers, and customers.

Research shows that positive employees make better decisions, are more creative, more productive, and acquire better interpersonal skills.

Think about the life and death decisions made daily in healthcare or the importance of team relationships and how they are impacted by a positive or negative work culture.  You can develop the best strategy for high quality, safe, and effective patient care, but culture trumps strategy every time.

When employees are in a positive work environment, they give better patient care.

A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that well-being comes from a positive culture. They identified 6 essential qualities of a positive work culture:

  1. Caring for colleagues as friends
  2. Supporting each other by offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling
  3. Avoiding blame and forgive mistakes
  4. Inspiring each other at work
  5. Emphasizing the meaning of the work
  6. Treating each other with respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity

Right now, I’m working with an organization to create a more professional, nurturing, and supportive work environment. As with many other organizations, the staff complain that the culture is negative. The problem is, everyone thinks it’s someone else’s job to fix it. Typically the staff blame the leaders.

However, shifting a negative work culture to a more positive one starts with one person who takes action.

Meet Dominique


Dominique works as a nursing assistant on a busy neurological unit. She recognized that the culture wasn’t always positive but saw how hard everyone was working. She took it upon herself to inspire others at work (#4) by cutting out stars and handwriting, “You are a star to our team. We appreciate you” on every single star and then placed them on every employee’s locker.


Nobody told her to do this.

It isn’t in her job description.

She isn’t the boss.

She didn’t ask permission.

She just recognized the need to infuse positivity into the workplace and she took action.

When I asked Dominique what prompted her to do this she said,

I honestly did it out of the kindness of my heart and I truly care about every one of my coworkers. They are my second family and we were starting to go at each other’s throats. So I took it upon myself to try and put a smile on everyone’s face. I truly believe this world needs more acts of kindness. When I passed those out to people, they really responded with positive feedback and felt appreciated.

I wish I could clone Dominique.

Seriously, while everyone was spending their time and energy complaining, she took action instead. Remember, there is power in action.

One simple positive act can change the world – or at least your unit!!

If you believe you are working in a negative environment and find yourself joining in the “complaint-fest”, stop complaining and DO something about it. Like Dominique did.

You have the power to create a healthier, more positive work environment! Don’t wait for someone else to do it. What if they never show up!

What are ways that your unit spreads positivity? Please include ideas in the comment box below so that we can all benefit!

Renee Thompson

Thanks so much for reading. Take care and stay connected!



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Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations that want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day.

If you’d like to find out more about her programs, please visit her website

Contact Renee today at to bring her to your organization to talk about ending the cycle of nurse bullying.