Blog Post

5 Signs Your Clinic Culture is Toxic for Employees

To help facilitate some inner-clinic introspection, we’ve assembled some red flags to watch out for. Here are eight signs that your company culture isn’t up to snuff.

Erica McDermott
5 min read
March 19, 2021
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As a business owner, you almost certainly know the importance of creating and maintaining a positive company culture. After all, it’s not a new concept—far from it. And it’s quite simple: a good company culture promotes employee happiness and thus, positively impacts your bottom line. A bad company culture, on the other hand, detracts from your team’s wellbeing and, as a result, your patients’ experience with your practice. That said, simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. And without conscious attention, even the sweetest company culture can turn sour. With that in mind, here are five signs that your company culture is toxic for your team:

1. Gobs of Gossip

According to Matt Ehrlichman—the author of this still-relevant Fast Company article from 2013—gossip undermines transparency and collaboration, which are necessary components of a positive culture. Furthermore, gossip breeds exclusivity, secrets, and negativity—hello, high school cliques. Not only is a gossipy culture detrimental to morale, but also, over time, it will impact your bottom line. That’s because employee relationships will no longer revolve around shared goals and accomplishments. 

In other words, there won’t be any teamwork to make the dream work. And just try keeping new staff from running to another clinic once they realize that the environment you’ve created isn’t a friendly one. For the same reasons, in-fighting is also a big red flag. Basically, you don’t want there to be animosity on your team, whether it occurs behind closed doors or out in front of them. 

2. Bad Leaders

While there’s no one “good” culture for every practice, all practices with positive company cultures do have one thing in common: stellar leaders who lead by example. If your leaders are demonstrating bad habits, it’s no wonder that your employees are, too. Take a look at the people at the top—then, work your way down to get the full picture of how your practice’s culture is faring. 

And be especially mindful of managers who rule through fear and intimidation, as that approach will rupture both trust and loyalty among your team. Additionally, be aware of the people in leadership roles who aren’t willing to get their hands dirty with their teams. Anyone who thinks they’re too big for their britches (a.k.a. is too far removed from the customer) won’t provide adequate value to anyone.

3. All Work, No Play

A 2019 LinkedIn study found that “46% of professionals around the world believe having work friends enhances their overall happiness.” In fact, “employees with friends at the office report feeling happy more often” than those who think of their colleagues merely as coworkers. And that makes sense. After all, historically, employees have spent more time with their coworkers than their families and friends outside of the office—and humans are, by nature, social creatures. But these office friendships don’t develop overnight, and they’ll never develop if your company culture doesn’t allow for—and encourage—connection and play.

Kevin Kuske—Chief Anthropologist and General Manager of the furniture company Turnstone—travels the country studying company culture, and as he explains in this blog, “If there is no evidence that people know how to have fun, or if it’s not acceptable to have fun, that’s a huge danger sign.”


4. Lack of Purpose

Companies with stellar company cultures always, always have a shared vision—an overarching purpose that unites their employees and points everyone in the same direction. Without that, there’s no cohesion among your team, and that will show. In the above-cited Fast Company article, Ehrlichman explains that “the moment an employee stops believing in the company and taking pride in [their] job significance, your castle will fall.” If your employees don’t have a shared purpose—or worse, don’t feel that they play an important role in supporting the company’s vision—then enthusiasm for the job (and the company) will wane quickly. And everyone will feel it.

5. Complaining Customers 

It’s not just your employees who throw up red flags that there’s something amiss with your company culture; your customers do as well. If your patients aren’t happy (i.e., there are a lot of complaints), then that’s a pretty clear indicator that there’s an issue. 

Take all customer complaints seriously, and use them to identify patterns that go beyond the complaint itself. Before you come down on a specific employee for doing something wrong, take a good, long look at your company culture to identify any gaps. After all, employees can’t really be held responsible for, say, keeping patients waiting too long in the waiting room, if you haven’t prioritized exceptional customer service as a pillar of your organization.

Spot any of these signs in your practice? Then it’s high time to make some changes. But there’s no reason to fret. It’s never too late—or too early—to improve your culture. Have some other warning signs you’d like to add to this list? Drop them below. We’d love to chat about them.

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