Nine Simple Things to Do to Restore Respect and Dignity in Our Healthcare Workplace

The healthcare sector is an industry where change is virtually constant. Trends, technology, management, protocols, by-laws, and policies change over time. Even teams can change overnight. Organizational strategies that pursue positive change such as continuous process improvement and ways to reduce waste are a target of lean management.

Amidst the competitive race towards safer and more efficient patient outcomes, the massive efforts to improve take their toll on its workforce, from management down to those performing bedside care, who are mostly nurses.

In a survey by Vickie Milazzo Institute that made assessments on the stressors of nurses, one of the main sources of stress in the workplace is the lack of respect, and the unwillingness of the management to stop disrespect and discord among workers. The conclusion of the study was that lack of respect and dignity consequently leads to a negative working environment.

Respect and dignity are fundamental to the stability of an organization. These values are also the foundation of inclusion and employee engagement. Some institutions, like the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), had managed to bring about inclusion and engagement when a department spearheaded the effort to uphold dignity and respect in their hospital. This strategy became the main driving force of its departmental goal, and its success across the organization positively influenced and inspired other hospitals to do the same.

Even with the recent trend in "Lean"  management, it is necessary to focus on stabilization first before working on strategy deployment. Organizations first need to go "back to basics" to ensure inclusion and engagement through respect and dignity initiatives.

Fostering Respect and Dignity Through Nine Simple Things

How does an organization promote and uphold respect and dignity among members? There are simple things that each can do as a habit. Eventually, the collective efforts work to establish aculture where dignity, as well as respect for self and others, will abound.

  • Engage in small acts of kindness

Practice acts of kindness even when no one is looking and without expecting anything in return. Eventually, you will realize that it isn't about the recognition. You are doing it because it makes you feel good.

  • Have a positive attitude

Being in the healthcare sector, especially being directly involved with patient care is indeed stressful. Keeping a cool head and a ready smile can prevent unnecessary conflicts and can pave the way for efficient and respectful communication.

  • Be courteous to your colleagues as well as to patients and family members

Say hello, good morning, thank you and please.

When we were kids, we were taught that these are magic words that make this world a better place (and ultimately help us get what we want.) These are not called magic words for nothing. Remember, that you respond better when someone you talk to and work with use these words when communicating with you.

  • Go the second extra mile

It is not uncommon for most nurses, for example, to go the extra mile. There are interventions done in the nurses' own personal time.  The second extra mile is making further efforts that lead to a positive result.

  • Stop, Look, Listen and Act.

In our hectic everyday schedule, we sometimes think that we don't have time to be amiable. But we do. We should learn how to stop dwelling in dissatisfaction, and start listening at others' point of views. Look for common interests and goals to foster inclusion.

If a colleague is telling you something that contradicts your opinion, readily listen to what they are saying and keep an open mind. In the end, both of you only meant well for the team.

Are you a witness to a bullying behavior? Act, be brave and do the right thing.

Do you feel that you have an advanced skill in understanding new technology? Volunteer to teach others or perhaps volunteer to lead.

  • Be flexible

Are things not going as planned? Save yourself from frustration by learning to go with the tide and leaving room for adjustments.

  • Respect the uniqueness of each employee

Our co-workers come from different backgrounds and culture. Each has his or her own working habits and attitude. Workaround those differences and extend your patience.

  • Be transparent when communicating

Obtain clarification when something is unclear. Politely ask if you have been understood.  Make sure there is an acknowledgment that your message has been read or heard and understood.

  • Apologize when you make a mistake or behave inappropriately

Working in the healthcare sector is indeed stressful. None of us is perfect.  Be aware of things that you do or say by mistake. Although inappropriate behaviors are bound to happen from time to time, apologizing should immediately follow the mistake to reduce tension and to keep work relationships afloat.

Individual efforts do count. But stronger and more legally binding initiatives should be in place to help the organization foster and maintain respect and dignity within the organization. Hospitals should be able to:

  • Incorporate respect and dignity in their organization’s values
  • Dedicate learning and developmental tools and training for the said purpose
  • Have strong policies that deal with disrespect such as bullying, sexual harassment, and victimization
  • Have a conflict resolution program or committee
  • Include initiatives in organizational plans and management strategies
  • Include these actions and policies in regular performance evaluations

Fostering respect and dignity in your organization can be a daunting task. ManageUP firmly believes that restoring these values is the first step to process improvement. We help foster respect and dignity by giving organizations the chance to have transparency within. Know how we can help. Contact us now.




"An Assessment of the Stress Levels of Nurses in the United States" by Vickie Milazzo Institute 2014

"Dignity and respect at UPMC"

"Respect for Self and Others is Fundamental to Positive Change" Confident Voices Blog by Beth Boynton, March 15, 2015