What Would Shawn Do? Dealing with a Wimpy Practice Owner


I’m an associate doctor in a new clinic. In my last job, I worked under a more seasoned owner who held people accountable. My current boss wants everyone to like her, and people are getting away with murder. It’s super frustrating and hard for me to watch. What should I do?


When you have seen how much more efficiently things run under a leader who values accountability, it can be crazy-making to work for a wimpy practice owner. But there are some ways you could improve your situation.
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    Ask for specifics when she gives direction in meetings.

Volunteer to take meeting minutes and ask questions such as, “What date do you expect Mary to complete this assignment by?” Or “Where, specifically, do you expect everyone to write their requests for vacation time?”

  • Give your boss respectful feedback.
In private, and in a respectful way, tell her what you’ve observed. Give concrete examples of people taking advantage of her niceness and how it harms the clinic. Be nonjudgmental and stick to the facts as you see them.
  • Focus on what you can control.

She’s the boss. Once you have given your feedback, it’s time to move on. Set an example by being accountable yourself. Give co-workers private, respectful feedback when you see that their actions are not benefiting the clinic.

Lastly, consider looking for another job if your values are so far out of alignment with your boss that you’re going to be unhappy no matter what.
Good luck!

Stop Moaning and Face Your Problems!

Does it sometimes seem like a new problem pops up every day at your hospital? Communication problems, operations problems, money problems, people problems, scheduling problems, service problems, and morale problems. It can seem overwhelming, but let’s face it–problems are just a part of life. If you learn to deal with them, you build resilience and easily clear away the obstacles that get in the way of achieving your goals.

Indicators of Trouble

 If you’re not sure whether or not there’s trouble brewing, here are some signs:
  • You or others are throwing your hands up in the air and saying, “There’s no way to fix it!”
  • You know you have minor problems, but you’re waiting around, hoping they will simply go away. Reality check: Problems don’t just go away. People do.
  • People are blaming or making excuses, rather than taking responsibility. That looks like: “It’s not my problem!” Or, “She’s the one that caused this problem, not me.” Or, “This was caused by circumstances beyond my control.”
  • You or your team members are using unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as procrastinating, ignoring, forgetting, pretending, numbing, or complaining.

The Cost of Avoiding the Problems

By avoiding legitimate suffering, you build layers of neurosis and eventually become less than the person you are capable of being. The enthusiasm you used to have is gone, and you have completely lost touch with what inspires you.
When you aren’t inspired, you don’t move in the direction of accomplishing your goals. And neither does anyone else, by the way, because you aren’t acting as a role model or giving them the support they need. In short, ignoring your problems is a recipe for failure!

Facing Reality

To go from failure to freedom:
  1. Reframe your problems into opportunities.
  2. Stop avoiding and take them on.

Reframe Problems into Opportunities

Benjamin Franklin said, “Those things that hurt, instruct.” It is for this reason that wise people learn to reframe problems as opportunities for learning rather than dreading and avoiding them.

Stop moaning, and train yourself to think, “The temporary pain and discomfort of the problem-solving process is worth the long-term benefit of permanently fixing the problem.” Instead of, “This is such a headache,” say, “I’m learning something new, and the hospital is getting better and better.”


Take Them On

Avoiding the problem means you still have the problem the next day, and the next day, and the next day. Face reality. Yes, you’ll have to take in new information. Your world view will change. That’s OK! You’ll live through it!
Avoid any of these behaviors or thoughts, which serve as ways to protect yourself from reality:
  • “Don’t talk back to me! You’re challenging my authority, and I don’t like it.”
  • “Live and let live! Why do you need to bring up these problems? Can’t we all just get along?”
  • “I’ll deal with this problem, but you are going to pay for it later.”
  • “I am fragile and can’t handle the challenge. Please go away.”
Confronting problems is difficult, and it takes courage. But you can build the skills you need to do it successfully. For starters, read my advice here and here about confronting conflict in a positive way. Click here for what NOT to do when you in conflict–the responses that ruin relationships. You can also hire me to teach your team the skills you need to address conflict gracefully and productively.