3 Keys For A Positive Work Environment

Several years ago I worked in the trauma unit at a provincial hospital. We worked in teams of eight, I was a new, young nurse and when I struggled caring for my first trauma patient, Pat, the charge nurse said,

Barb, how about if I give you a hand?

When I was assigned to the Code Team and a Code was called elsewhere in the hospital, Pat would run with me (and the Code Team) to the patient.  On the way she would say to me,

Don’t worry. I’ve got your back.

As a nursing team we often brought food for little parties on our night shifts, Pat always updated us on what was happening with the docs, other teams, and throughout the hospital. On the morning of our last night shift rotation, we would go out for champagne breakfast. All eight team members cherished this monthly ritual.

It was the most positive working environment I have ever worked in and I didn’t know it at the time. What made that environment so different that in my 30 years of nursing experience, I have never seen it re-created?

Every team member or employee can take steps to create a more positive work environment, however in any work environment, there are common mistakes people make that interferes with creating a positive environment.

3 Common Mistakes

1.    Focus on What’s Wrong

Many professionals (particularly health professionals) have been educated to look for problems. It is how many potential problems and complications are prevented before they can become serious problems. Unfortunately, when attempting to create a positive work environment, this skill can work against you. Because you are educated to see the glass as half empty, there is always a problem. This prevents you from seeing what is working well.

2.   Use Generalizations

Often times, when leaders (or colleagues) want to comment on good work that a group or team has done, they use generalizations: “Everyone did a great job!” or “Excellent work!” While those are positive comments, they gloss over the detail, effort, time and energy that people have put into the project. People appreciate, remember and respond more positively to specifics.

3.   Don’t Honour Their Word

Many people don’t follow through on their word. They say. “I’ll get back to you with the information” and then it slips off their “to do’ list; they say, “I’ll call you at 1400 and then get busy and never acknowledge their broken word. Yes, everyone makes mistakes but when this happens on a frequent basis it has a negative impact on trust, integrity and likeability.

So what can you do to begin creating a more positive work environment?

3 Key Strategies

1. Shift Your Focus

When your focus is consistently on ‘what’s wrong’ it’s easy to fall into a glass half empty, cynical, sarcastic perspective. The late Stephen Covey (author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) said,

Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, affirmed, validated, and to be appreciated.

Because we don’t initially see something, doesn’t mean it does not exist. Shift your focus to seeing the good others’ are doing. We get more of what we pay attention to.

2. Speak Their Language

I was leading a workshop recently when one of the participants said, “I don’t get it. I tell my staff they’re doing a good job all the time and they still say they don’t feel appreciated. What am I doing wrong?”

I said, “You’re likely speaking the wrong language.”

According to Gary Chapman and Paul White (authors of “5 Language of Appreciation in the Workplace), there are five languages of appreciation that help create a positive work environment. The 5 Languages are:

Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Tangible Gifts, Physical Touch

Find out which language your colleagues or employees prefer and then use that language to appreciate them!

3. Use the KLT Principle

People respond positively to those they Know, Like and Trust. It’s a fundamental principle of working with people in any industry. How do you get people to Know, Like and Trust you?

1)    Address By Name

Make an effort to learn peoples’ names. People don’t mind if you make a mistake and get their name wrong, they know you are at least trying to remember it. 

2)   Be Present

When you are looking at your mobile device or constantly glancing at your watch, it clearly indicates you are not present with the person you are meeting with. Stay focused on the person you are meeting with.

3)   Honour Your Word

 This is simple: When you say you are going to do something, do it!

The creation of a positive work environment is the responsibility of all team members. As you use these strategies, your work environment will begin to change, for the better.






Sign Up for FREE Valuable Communication Insights That Produce Results.


  • Our workshop participants found Barb’s approach to teaching at the Centre for Professional Development to be dynamic and engaging.  Barb not only taught effective communication and presentation skills, but also role modelled techniques throughout the day. Participants were excited to be able to apply learning’s directly into their day to day roles

    Leasa Knechtel

    Associate Director at the Centre for Professional Development, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto.

  • Your plenary session was a real asset and a great contribution to the success of our National IPAC Conference. From beginning to end participants were energized and actively engaged.


    Gwyneth Meyers BSc, MSc, PhD

    Scientific Committee Chair

  • “The workshop was wonderful!! Barb walked the talk by continuously demonstrating the tips and skills she was teaching! It was amazing to see it all come together. I would recommend the workshop to anyone who has to present.”

    Bev Waite, Education Lead-Nursing,

    Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

  • I told one of the nurse educators that it was the best 3 hours I have spent in a training session as the content was clear, relevant, exactly enough to be able to incorporate into presentations, and you demonstrated each point which was great. It was watching an expert at work.

    Aideen Carroll, Advanced Practice Nurse Educator

    Toronto General Hospital

  • Your workshop was also a big hit. It was interesting to hear people talk about it as not good, but great.

    Debbie Ross

    CMP Manager of Governance and Events CNA

  • After working with Barb, our team returned to work energized, enthused and inspired to utilize tools that increase our communication, clarity and relationship with not only each other, but also with the residents and families that we serve. I would highly recommend Barb if you want to bring out the best in your team.

    Dale Clements, Administrator

    Columbus Residence

  • Barb Langlois led a wonderful one day workshop for 45 Clinical Nurse Educators in Saskatoon Health Region. She worked with us in advance to really understand our learning needs, Six months later, I see CNEs using Barb’s techniques to engage learners and I use them myself in my own presentations. I strongly recommend Barb – she is a very skilled facilitator who connects with learners in a very meaningful and effective way.

    Margot Hawke RN, BSN, MCEd, Nursing Professional Practice Lead

    Saskatoon Health Region


Seriously? Me, too! covers 10 Power Strategies that seriously work. It takes everyday situations that you can relate to, sprinkles in a bit of humour (you can’t be serious all the time) and demonstrates how you can achieve personal success — one simple step at a time. Learn More »


Simplify Your Smarts

What’s the point of being smart if nobody understands what you have to say? Have you interacted with someone who is really smart but w