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Are You Difficult to Work With?


Most physicians would probably not classify themselves as difficult to work with.

Most physicians would probably not classify themselves as difficult to work with. But, if you are honest with yourself about the title question, the answer would probably be yes - occasionally. As a physician, your staff looks to you for leadership and guidance. It makes sense to try to better understand your weaknesses and strengths and improve your interactions with your staff and other physicians.

Here are a few behavior patterns to look out for. Do you see a little of yourself here?

  • Passive aggressive - this physician doesn’t directly address opinions or group decisions he doesn’t agree with, but later on he’ll ignore the new procedures or even take the lead in attempting to undercut them. This pattern is very common for doctors who practice as part of a group.

  • Dominant - this physician is likely to take over someone else’s project, interrupt a discussion, or in some way try to control practice decisions. This makes it difficult for other physicians to offer their own suggestions. It is hard to encourage staff buy in on office changes if the dominant physician is always in charge.

  • Out of focus - this physician is in his own world, and does not attend to what is being said or done by staff members and colleagues. He is often distracted, and does not really “get” what others are saying. He has difficulties working as a team member, and is not responsive to the changing needs of the practice.

  • Risk taker - this physician pushes the envelope by rashly pursuing ideas that may not work. Other physicians can be hesitant to go along when the risk taker is playing Russian roulette with the practice’s revenue.

Considering these behavior types can give you insight into how you might react to a difficult problem. Being aware of these potential pitfalls can make it easier to navigate when the going gets tough.

Here are a few strategies to follow when you find yourself being “difficult:”

  • Recognize when you are having a bad day. Everyone can have a bad day, even a doc. But do it covertly. If you feel yourself about to loose it, step into your office for a few minutes. Let your nurse take the initial history and vitals. Be kind to yourself; remember the rest of the practice depends on you.

  • Recognize that your practice has a mission. Don’t let yourself be the road block to smooth practice operations. You carefully crafted your mission statement and practice guidelines for a reason. Follow them, and encourage your staff to do the same. When everyone is working on the same page the road bumps aren’t quite so bad.

  • Recognize that your practice is a team. You’ve carefully selected your staff members and put in place systems to ensure that everyone can accomplish their job smoothly. You rely on your staff to keep the practice humming, so that you can deliver quality patient care. Hold yourself to the same standards that you require of your staff. Both you and your practice will benefit.

Owen Dahl, FACHE, CHBC, is a nationally recognized medical practice management consultant with over 26 years of experience in consulting for and managing medical practices and author of “Think Business! Medical Practice Quality, Efficiency, Profits” and “The Medical Practice Disaster Planning Workbook.” He can be reached at or 281 367 3364.

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