5 Tips for Creating a Positive Work Environment in Radiology

Positive leadership is the only effective way to lead a radiology department. If you’ve decided to take on a leadership position, then why not create a positive, non-threatening environment that will help increase morale, reduce turnover, increase revenues and make your department a more positive place to work? From a business perspective, it’s the only path that makes sense.

A leader can create a positive work environment in five straightforward steps. And if you already have a positive department, I hope these steps serve as a friendly reminder of the importance of leading with positivity and battling against negative forces that try to hold you back.

Step 1:

Motivate, Motivate and Motivate Some More!

The definition of positive leadership is, “motivate, motivate and motivate some more!” You can’t create a positive environment for your staff if you can’t motivate the staff to achieve a common goal. This is something all leaders must understand.

You motivate your staff by leading them with a positive approach. Being positive is a simple choice of attitude and we can all make that choice. We have 14 radiologists who are contracted to work for the Providence Alaska Medical Center and I’ve had several of them say to me, “Scott, you always seem so happy.” I have the same day-to-day struggles as anyone else, but I have made a choice on how I lead and how I am perceived. It’s all about that importance choice. It’s not that I skip down the hallway every day, singing songs and smiling nonstop. But when my day is hectic, I choose to control only what I can and then I let the other stuff go. Don’t choose to whine, complain, argue or act depressed; that’s not leadership. In order to lead by being positive, you must first feel positive. You can’t fake it.

And if you prefer to sit in a cubicle all day and crunch numbers, then I doubt you’re going to motivate anyone. You’ll still get to pick up your paycheck, but that’s not serving a purpose. That’s not creating a positive environment.

Step 2:

Deal with Negative Employees.

Dealing with negative employees is the most difficult challenge for directors. If you don’t confront them, however, their negativity will destroy the morale of your department, undermine your leadership abilities and eventually cause you to fail as a director. It is your responsibility to build that positive environment, and you will never be successful if you ignore negative employees and let them go unchallenged.

Of course, I’m not talking about employees who have legitimate concerns and want to express their opinions. You want to always have an open ear, and it’s important to listen in order to make effective changes in your department. No, I meam the whining, complaining, passive aggressive characters who always seem unhappy, no matter what. Some individuals are just not happy and act as if they have been hardwired to act in a negative way.

You must confront these negative employees. I know it isn’t very fun, but it is an important step toward positive change. You can’t have a positive department if you choose to put up with negativity. So how do you deal with such individuals? You document everything. Make friends with your HR department and communicate to your boss, because they can support your efforts, but also realize that the situation is still your responsibility. HR can reduce the litigation risk, and your boss might give you or HR the thumbs up for termination, but it’s still up to you at the end of the day.

Remember that one negative employee can destroy the moral of many others. I view it this way: It’s my job to protect the positive employees from the negative ones, so I protect them by confronting the negative employees. Sure, you can try to work with the negative employee with action plans and other ideas, but it’s rare to find a victory going that route. Negative employees know all the HR tricks of the trade and they are masters at understanding policies that may affect them. If an employee can recite the policy for how times they can call out sick, for example, you’ve got a problem on your hands. Warn the employee and document each warning, but don’t drag things out. Also, make sure you have witnesses when you speak to them and let them know with perfect clarity, “This department is going to be positive and you, the employee, have no choice but to follow that direction. As the director, I’m responsible for the moral of the department, so how will you achieve this goal?”

Step 3:

Understand that Being Positive is Critical to a Department’s Success.

Dashboards, QA projects, CPT codes and protocols are important things to take care of, but don’t get that confused with positive leadership. You want to put your employees first and not statistics or charts. You will see the eyes of your employees glaze over if you only focus on numbers instead of treating them like individuals. You must respect all of your employees and realize that no one automatically respects you just because of your title. I treat all staff members with respect and I make sure the environment is positive and fun. It’s the most important job of a director.

Treating your employees in this way is absolutely critical to your department’s success. Think about it: If you’re positive and you’re taking care of the needs of the staff, then aren’t they going to act positive toward the patients? And when you have patients who are treated well and feel good about themselves, it guides you toward financial success. Happy patients are going to tell their referring physicians about their positive experience and they’ll also provide good feedback.

Step 4:

Follow Your Bliss.

To stay positive, you must understand your purpose in life and understand your bliss. It’s up to you to discover your purpose; no one else can do that for you.

Bill Moyers once interviewed Joseph Campbell, the famous teacher of mythology. Campbell spoke at length about the importance of following your bliss. “If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living,” Campbell said. “When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

You entered into healthcare for a reason, right? Evaluate that reason and determine if you are truly happy being where you are. Are you on the correct track or path? I suggest you come to work with a smile on your face and decide, “this will be a positive, friendly environment and I’m responsible to make sure that the patients have a great experience, the staff have a great experience and the physicians and nurses have a great experience.” Only the director can set the course, and it’s hard to have a direction if you don’t have a compass for your own life.

Step 5:

Be Compassionate.

If you infuse your positive attitude with compassion, you’ll have a recipe for success. It’s very simple, really: Be a positive leader and lead with compassion!

Again, this is a choice you make with your attitude. Take some time and ask yourself today, “Am I a positive leader who can motivate others by providing a high level of compassionate care and concern for everyone?” Again, this is a choice you make with your attitude.

Scott Hazelbaker RT(R), CRA, MS, is the director of radiology at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, Ala.