How to Make Workplace Culture Matter

By AAPL Staff
May 3, 2019

Organizations that build cultures of trust — where relationships and open dialogue are common — experience 50% greater productivity. 

THE CHALLENGE: “Workplace culture” seems to be a popular phrase today. But what does it really mean? There is no doubt that among the chaos of meetings and deadlines, workplace culture can be tough to manage.


A quick takeaway to help you hone your leadership skills.

But recent research suggests it can have a significantly larger effect than some might think.

According to an article in the January-February 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, employees in workplace cultures driven by fear experience 74% more stress and 106% less energy at work than employees in high-trust environments. Organizations that build cultures of trust — where relationships and open dialogue are common — experience 50% greater productivity.


  • Cultures of fear develop insidiously, with detrimental effects. They often stem from leadership issues at the top and foment within, as people feel uncomfortable asking questions and trusting the people around them, making it harder for them to do what it takes to drive organizational success.
  • Relationships and trust are codependent. When individuals connect with one another, they form relationships and more easily trust those individuals. These trusting relationships allow team members to positively influence one another.
  • Embrace leadership philosophies that encourage trust. For physicians that have driven patient care, on both a patient-by-patient basis and within departments and organizations, stepping back to evaluate the needs of their organization to determine strategies for success often is easier said than done.
  • Proceed until apprehended. To gain ground with employees, leaders must apply strategies to achieve organizational success. Some leaders might allow competent individuals to learn, practice, perform and grow as professionals in their role until told otherwise. The approach provides appropriate freedom and accountability.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Cultures of fear and other toxic workplace environments can have tangible and detrimental effects. By gaining an understanding of what toxic cultures are and how to build lasting strategies for success, physician leaders can build cultures of trust at work with positive results.

Adapted from Proceed Until Apprehended, part of the American Association for Physician Leadership’s comprehensive online curriculum. Click here for more about our educational offerings and credentials.

Topics: Leadership Journal

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