Background and context: This paper uses Kolb’s learning cycle as a reflective framework to critically reflect on personal experience in the workplace and to carry out a review of the literature of workplace culture. Through this reflection, factors that impact on workplace culture are discussed; in particular the effect of staff engagement as a central concept in developing positive workplaces is explored. The factors that reduce staff engagement in the workplace are presented and reflections on what is necessary to improve workplace cultures for the benefit of the staff, patients and the healthcare organisation are discussed. Aims and objectives: To reflect on the importance of staff engagement as a mechanism for, and an outcome of, developing positive workplace cultures. Conclusions: I have critically reflected on my and others’ experience of poor workplace cultures. This journey has led me to raise questions pertinent to this field, as identified by my review of the literature. This review uncovered a number of factors that positively and negatively influence healthcare culture. Implications for practice: Given the importance of engagement to the development of positive and effective workplaces, I suggest that this is an important area for practice development research. I am developing a study that will describe the factors that contribute to workplace satisfaction and therefore staff engagement and disengagement. These factors will be examined in the everyday work life of nurses and may assist in understanding behaviour in the workplace and developing strategies to help build individual resilience and more effective workplaces.