Physician technology to assist with ultrasound procedures.
Physician technology to assist with ultrasound procedures.

CV prep

Choose your boss carefully

Table of Contents

Over the years, Joan says she has shared her experience with other doctors considering attending positions at that particular hospital. These doctors found her the same way you can find a previous employee from where you are considering working—networking with your colleagues. Ask if anyone knows someone who worked at such and such hospital, and you might be surprised at how small the world is. Of course, not everyone will be willing to talk but it’s worth an effort.

This can be a more challenging endeavor if you’re looking at a small practice like Kevin was, but in that case, consider broadening your search and speaking not only with doctors and nurses but administrative staff. It’s likely that they can all contribute to your understanding of what type of atmosphere you would encounter.

Johnson, the CEO of Women for Hire, says even doing an Internet search on the potential boss might be valuable. If you are considering a somewhat larger practice, hospital, etc., you might even find that there is a company chat room on the Internet. Johnson gives the example of Carla Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who was forced out after a series of layoffs at the company and a difficult merger with Compaq. A Hewlett-Packard chat site indicated that the company morale was “really bad and getting worse” before Fiorina was forced out.

Obviously, not all of the positions you might be considering will be at companies like Hewlett-Packard, and you may not find a chat site that can help you. The point is that the Internet can be a rich source of information.

An important caveat to keep in mind whenever you talk to (or read comments from) a current or former employee is that this person may have an axe to grind even if he was treated fairly by the boss. Unless you know something about the source, it’s probably best not to rely solely on the opinions of one person.

What if your boss is just a master of disguise or you get a new boss at the job you already have? Are your only options to quit or wait to get fired?

Grace* took her first job out of a pediatric residency at a clinic-based large group practice in Northern California. Nothing about the interviews set off any alarms and she felt comfortable with the doctors with whom she would be working most closely. Soon after she started, however, she ran into some problems with the doctor who was in charge of all the pediatricians in the group and was a high-ranking administrator in the practice.

The first sign that things would not go swimmingly was when this administrator forced Grace to switch her day off to accommodate his personal schedule. Grace chalked it up to being the new kid on the block, but over time she saw that this administrator was autocratic in almost all of his dealings with the pediatricians. At meetings, he would announce an initiative, refute any criticism other doctors raised, and implement exactly what he had said he was going to do. While Grace describes this administrator as being a very engaging, socially adept person, he was an excessively rigid boss and morale began to suffer because of it.

Fortunately for Grace and her colleagues, every year the physicians in the group were asked to rate their administrators on a confidential basis. Over the course of several years, the pediatricians’ complaints about this administrator and the overall low morale of the doctors and staff forced the larger group to bring in an outside consultant to evaluate this administrator’s effectiveness. He stepped down months later.

Quitting isn’t the only option; sometimes the boss can be the one to leave. Just realize that the boss probably has some particular skill or brings some value to the job (which explains why he is the boss in the first place) and it may take some time to build a record which shows that the negative effects of his temperament outweigh his strengths. Of course, if the boss also owns the place, there may not be much you can do, and leaving might be best.

If you do leave, even if it’s because your boss has been a holy terror and you loathe his very existence, be professional. Give your boss and colleagues plenty of notice, write a diplomatic letter of resignation (no need for a lengthy explanation), and don’t badmouth the job after you’re gone. Just as you might make some calls about a new boss, your next boss will likely do the same. The medical world may be smaller than you think, and you never know whose path you may cross in the future.

Finally, if you do leave, here’s hoping you take steps to find the workplace angel you deserve.

Jim Silver is a former federal prosecutor who is currently writing a book on criminal law to be published in 2007

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Jim Silver

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