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Culture Wars: Lessons Learned to Keep the Peace

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I recently added a new Critical Access Hospital (CAH) to my capabilities as a Physician Advisor. CAH is about 45 minutes away from my current organization. What I found very interesting is that there are many similarities and different cultures exist there, given the relatively short distance.

We need to recognize that every organization, not just healthcare, has its own culture. In his Forbes article by Dr. Pragya Agarwal, he states that workplace culture is a set of values, belief systems, attitudes and assumptions shared by people in the workplace. There is no such thing as a “correct” culture. It is shaped by personal upbringing, social and cultural background. But there can be “good” cultures. However, in the workplace, leadership and strategic organizational direction and management have a significant impact on workplace culture.

I once attended a CEO presentation to employees and she said culture is learned, not taught, and learning a new culture can take up to six months. I said, based on this idea, people in one environment should learn and adopt one culture. However, like my new position, those of us with multiple settings must strive to learn, understand, and respect the differences between them. However, you should be careful not to make comparisons as it can lead to disastrous results.

Below are some categories or areas whether you have been with the organization for a long time or are starting a new position.

  1. What is your geographical location? Is it urban, rural or otherwise? This can have implications for social determinants of health that need to be addressed. I remember working in a very rural hospital in Mississippi. I learned a lot there.
  2. What is the facility’s mission statement? As mentioned earlier, leadership can influence the direction of an organization and changes in leadership can have a large impact. But will the new leadership try to change the culture or embrace the existing culture? I’m not here to say which is the better way. It depends. Certainly, what is commonly called “harmful” cultures would benefit from change.
  3. The final area I will cover is that of change. As a leader, do you change to adapt to the current culture, or do you become a change agent? The answer should be somewhere in between. Remember that change can be difficult and difficult.

In summary, whether you are a manager or a member of a team, you should respect the culture of where you are. It has been there long before you arrived, and it will be there long after you leave. What are the impacts?

Programming notes: Listen to Dr. John Zelem’s popular segment “Journaling John MD” every Tuesday on Talk Ten Tuesdays at 10 Eastern.