Recently I attended a CME course entitled “Dealing with Difficult Colleagues.” It was part of my medical malpractice company’s risk management series to teach physicians/nurses how to lessen our risk of being sued.
This lecture was given by Linda Worley, MD who is a psychiatry professor at UAMS. She is a good speaker, easy to understand, engages the crowd, and knows her subject.
My only complaint would be it focused only the “angry” or “frustrated” physicians who exhibit unprofessional behavior and did not include the ones whom you suspect might be difficult due to impairment (illness, drugs, alcohol).
Difficult colleagues can impact a team (in office, OR, or hospital) by creating low morale, high staff turnover, inefficiency, decreased patient satisfaction, increased risk for poor patient outcomes, and increased risk of litigation.
Here are some of the A-B-C-D strategies given for handling “horizontal” hostility (or hostility handed from one person to another to the next in the team):
- Recognize verbal and non-verbal behaviors
- Do not ignore and let them grow
- Remember, they are often driven by distress
Be a leader
- Set a good example
- Refuse to engage in negativity
- Acknowledge conflict
- Respect others’ views
- Move to a private area
Dedicate yourself to making positive difference in the workplace
- Don’t participate in gossip, infighting or backstabbing
- Make daily deposits into the emotional bank accounts of others
When assertive communication is used in dealing with the difficult colleague both parties will feel they matter. You should include “I” statements so the difficult colleague doesn’t feel attacked. You should describe the situation/needs objectively. It is always a good thing to give a genuine POSITIVE statement about the other person. Confront your difficult colleague with honesty and compassion.
It is helpful for an office, clinic, or hospital to have a defined Code of Conduct as this sets up expectations and clearly defines appropriate behavior. It also facilitates an objective discussion as it can be referred to as needed.
The following article was included in our information:
Our Fallen Peers: A Mandate for Change; Linda L. M. Worley, M.D.; Acad Psychiatry 32:8-12, January-February 2008