How to Deal with a Difficult Colleague in a Medical Profession

It’s inevitable: as long as people have different personalities, priorities, and goals, they will clash. Everyone has had experience dealing with a colleague whose personality or methods do not mesh well with their own. Difficult colleagues cause your attitude to turn sour, make you unhappy with your work environment, and take a toll on your job productivity and satisfaction.

A study conducted in 2008 by research firm CCP found that employees can spend up to three hours every week dealing with conflict in the workplace. Below we list down some ways to help you deal with a difficult colleague in a high-stress environment like the medical field.

Use Your Energy Wisely

Having a number of issues with colleagues can create an environment that generates more risk to your patients and yourself than to others. Conserve your energy by picking your battles and concentrating your efforts towards high risk situations while keeping the patients’ best interests at heart.

Don’t Have Confrontations While Stressed

The last thing you want when you’re having a disagreement with a co-worker is to fan the flames. If it’s possible to leave the situation alone, do so. Cool down and take the time to see the issue from all angles, in case you find a different perspective from your first. Be direct and calm, and approach confrontations with a clear head with as little heat or anger as possible.

In order to have a productive conversation, managing your tone is key to getting your point across and smoothing out your differences with your colleague. You’ll still have to work with them after you confront them, so try to have a conversation instead of a fight.

More Communication, Not Less

Don’t avoid your colleague: try and smooth out disagreements as soon as possible with a calm heart and a clear mind. Convey your emotions and information at the right place and time, and be clear about how the other person is making you feel. You can also cite instances that you feel can be made better in the future by improving on them now.

If you find that you are unable to have a rational conversation with a difficult colleague, allow someone else – a neutral party – to mediate a discussion for you. Letting difficult behavior go unchecked can be one of the worst things you do. It enables that behavior, which makes the overall work environment worse in the long run.

Understand Your Workplace Policies

Before taking any action, make sure that you will be working within the bounds that your hospital or facility has set. If there are none, you may consider suggesting some guidelines be put in place to your superiors. Workplace policies establish a system and framework for reporting incidents and make sure they don’t happen again. Having an incident reporting system that is confidential and repercussion-free helps people feel safe about pointing out difficult behavior and makes it easy to pinpoint which areas to improve upon.

Be Considerate

Taking the time out to listen, being kind and understanding of each other’s situation can prove beneficial to all parties. Never allow a confrontation with a colleague to turn into a shouting match. It’s also not a good idea to gossip about the situation to your other co-workers. Maintain a reasonable amount of professional decorum at all times and try not to let your feelings get in the way of a smooth workflow and productive environment. You’ll all be the better for it.

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