Thank You for Saying ‘Thank You’

Premier Pulse     January 2020

Belcastro_350x350by Marc Belcastro, DO, system chief medical officer, Premier Health

Imagine a workplace where everyone said “thank you” after each interaction. Research has proven a simple “thank you” can increase productivity, improve well-being, build mental strength, increase job satisfaction, and can be contagious. Other science-based studies have linked workplace gratitude to more positive emotions, less stress and fewer health complaints, a greater sense of achieving goals, fewer sick days, and higher satisfaction with co-workers.

Our days are filled with thousands of conversations, text messages, and countless emails. Would a continuous stream of “thank you’s” lack authenticity or become a bit annoying? I would submit that any downside is completely overshadowed by its benefits.

Cultural transformation would result from this simple, yet powerful habit. A word about culture; it is the environment that surrounds you all the time at work. Another way to express culture is similar to the description of personality. It is made of the values, beliefs, experiences, and habits that create a person’s behavior. An organization’s culture is made up of the life experiences each employee brings to the organization. While organizational culture is especially influenced by its leaders, every employee has an impact on its culture.

For example, Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., is a system with 18,000 employees and 1,500 physicians. They embarked on a goal to reduce hospital-acquired infections with a primary focus on hand hygiene. Their starting compliance rate was 60 percent. Every member of the team committed to 100 percent accountability for their own and for one another’s hand hygiene behavior. When anyone witnessed a co-worker miss a hand hygiene moment, they would remind the violator. That person would respond with “thank you,” without getting defensive. Within a month, the hand hygiene compliance rate jumped to 90 percent and ultimately reached 98 percent for more than one year. This simple behavior influenced the culture of safety beyond hand hygiene. The clinical achievement, combined with the positive interactions, crossed over to staff accountability for all safety interactions.

Imagine the impact of “thank you” on the heart of a busy and stressed nurse. Imagine the impact on patients and the operating room staff if every time a member of the OR team spoke a concern, they heard “thank you” from the surgeon, even if the concern was not valid. Multiply those moments of gratitude. I am convinced that the safety and well-being of our patients and staff would be transformative. Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.

Back to the January 2020 issue of Premier Pulse

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