The Importance of Cultivating a Positive Working Environment

Evie, from our Project Management team, explains the importance of cultivating a positive working environment


Picture this: you wake up to your alarm on a Monday morning, your heart racing because you are absolutely dreading work. You get in your car and become increasingly anxious, wondering how your week is going to go, preempting what already may happen: ‘Am I going to be good enough today?’ ‘Am I going to be shouted at like yesterday?’ ‘Is anyone going to support me?’

Unfortunately, it’s usually not the job itself that is the cause of anxiety, but the management.

Just R focus on delivering sustainable workforce solutions to NHS Trusts across the UK. A large part of our work includes candidate attraction and screening, and gathering insights into the employee experience. We are seeing evidence of higher turnover rates where some candidates are looking to leave their Trust, or even healthcare completely, due to toxic working environments.


Over the years, toxic management has been accepted within many sectors as ‘the norm’, allowing it to fester in the workplace before a flame becomes a fire. According to research by Culture Shift* 13% of workers experienced bullying or harassment in the last year from their manager, with 98% of workers also experiencing incivility in the workplace. These shocking statistics cost the NHS more than £2bn a year with a prediction that if those bullied NHS workers left their jobs, it would foot a whopping bill of £231.9m in recruitment costs alone to replace them. This has a massive impact on the cost of attrition within the NHS. It’s not just monetary costs that are incurred, toxic management also increases the risk of human error and lowers morale and productivity, thus generating unsafe workplaces with patient care at risk.

I have always firmly believed that it is a manager’s duty to support, guide, and inspire colleagues as opposed to pressurise. The need for positive management is necessary now more than ever in this time of crisis and burnout, and there are ways in which the NHS can incorporate some of these steps and theories into their management styles in order to promote exemplary leadership. This boils down to three steps that value your employee’s needs and requirements, in order to thrive in the workplace.

The first step to healthy, positive management is understanding your team and how they work as both individuals and as a collective.

Myers-Briggs’ 16 personalities theory is a great activity that can be used to pinpoint how colleagues think and work. A mix of personalities is essential in a well-functioning workplace, and managers should understand the basics of each in order to allocate work and support their staff accordingly.

The key takeaways from Myers Briggs’ are that it helps reduce conflict; improves communication & teamwork; plays to strengths; encourages self-reflection. The link for the test can be found here


Toxic Nanagement Diagram1 01

The second step is to understand what a team requires in order to be highly engaged and succeed in their role.

Herzberg’s two-factor theory is based on hygiene and motivational factors and how they influence an individual’s quality of work in the workplace. Hygiene factors include that of working conditions, job security, co-workers, and supervision. Motivational factors include that of recognition, responsibility, and achievement.

High hygiene and motivational factors create more productive employees with a lower turnover, and vice-versa with both low.

The third (and last) step is to acknowledge the atmosphere of the working environment and how this affects a team.

Mcgregor’s X and Y theory gives Theory X as an authoritarian, repressive style of management and Theory Y as a liberating and developmental style of management.

Many, if not all workplaces/managers will begin as a Y, where the atmosphere is encouraging, friendly, and empowering; thus, the team is motivated and willing to develop. Circumstances may change when the workplace/manager turns to X and the working environment becomes untrusting, unmotivating, and tightly controlled. X workplace teams resist change, lack creativity, and lack ambition, which in turn, obstruct growth and innovation.

Toxic Management Diagram2

The expectations on managers in the NHS can be high, and this can unconsciously impact their behaviour towards their own team; it’s all about taking accountability for their own actions. However, if the support systems are not there for the managers it is understandable how behaviour can be influenced. The NHS can make a conscious effort to ensure that managers have the support and resources available to them in order to maximise their management skills and lower the stress levels of both them and their team. As Stephen Covey says, “always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” In turn, the most essential factor for an NHS worker is positively impacted: patient safety.

The benefits of these initial actions include the following:

  • Increased motivation
  • Higher levels of skilled individuals – larger talent pool
  • Positive working atmosphere 
  • Lowers the cost of attrition
  • Better quality of work and patient care
  • High retention rates
  • Lowered number of sick days

It only takes one ‘bad apple’ to ruin the progress you have made, but it’s never too late to create safe-space workplaces that you can be proud to say that you are a part of.

Read our take on values-based recruitment,all about the ways you are attracting the most values-aligned workers to your team; making the journey to a thriving workforce an easier one.

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