Physician Leadership: a Simple Communication Tool to Avoid the Disruptive Doctor Label

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

physician-leadership-communication-stop-disruptive-physician-disruptive-doctor-labelPhysician Leadership:
A Simple Communication Tool to Avoid the Disruptive Doctor Label
(video training)

If you invite physicians into your management or leadership meetings, we will diagnose the problems in the system of care with the same speed and skill we diagnose disease in our patients.

Sooner or later we will also run into any number of situations that qualify as hypocrisy: where the organization says one thing and does something completely different.

Nothing in this world upsets a physician more than hypocrisy. 

We see it right away, like a flashing red light. It drives us to shout, thump tables, foam at the lips and more. This undisciplined behavior results in many doctors being labeled a "disruptive physician" and their completely legitimate concerns downplayed or ignored by the other senior leaders at the table. This outright dismissal of legitimate concerns can be a major cause of physician burnout for some doctors.

Here is a Simple Communication Tool to Completely Avoid Being Labeled Disruptive and get your concerns addressed.

It is a way of pointing out Hypocrisy we have tested with hundreds of physician leaders.

It works every time you notice you are becoming upset
and tap into the way this 1970's TV detective spoke to his suspects.
Check it out:

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Hello Dike Drummond here at the home of The Happy MD on the Puget sound in Seattle, Washington. Quick video here to show you how to avoid being labeled as a disruptive physician when you bring up a legitimate operational concern.

When a doctor is in the comfort zone of their practice and they're seeing patients, our expertise is diagnose and treat. We take the symptoms, reach a diagnosis, prescribe a treatment and follow the patient. But if I take that doctor out of a clinical setting and I drop them in a management or administration or organizational meeting, that skill set is used to diagnose organizational problems and the ones that upset doctors the most, are ones that involve hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy, where the organization says one thing and does another.

  • The mission statement says this, we're doing that.
  • Or we all know what the quality practice of medicine would require and we're not doing that, we're doing something else.

When doctors sense hypocrisy like that in an administrative meeting, we tend to get upset. You see - and hear - doctors do this all the time.

What in the world is going on here? Why are we doing this? That's not right. Slam the table, storm out. Well, that doctor unfortunately is going to get labeled disruptive and from that point forward, their opinion is going to be discounted because they're a disruptive doctor.

So let me teach you a behavior pattern that hopefully we can turn into a reflex so that when you sense hypocrisy, when you sense that you're getting upset in an administrative meeting, you can do something other than lose your temper.

It all runs around your ability to imitate a 1970s detective movie series character. I bet you can't guess which one. He had a trench-coat, a half-chewed cigar, put his hand on his head and always used to say,

You know, I'm curious, I'm confused, maybe you can help me out here”. That was Columbo.

And what Columbo would do is he would ask question and pretend that he is ignorant until the criminal would basically confess to him in full.

And so here's how it would go in an administrative or management meeting when you sense hypocrisy:

Notice-Breathe-Release those negative emotions and figure out a way to say the exact same words in your own style. And it could go like this,
you know, I'm noticing something, I'm curious, I'm confused maybe you can help me out here. I'm noticing the mission statement says this and we're doing that, what's that all about?  Help me out here”.

Now that may seem a little artificial as I say it to you for the first time here, but I've helped hundreds of doctors use this particular speech pattern in organizational meetings and it works like magic. Because it points out hypocrisy that nobody can deny and asks other people to explain it to you and you know what happens, they can't.

And what will happen is you will shift their awareness, they will come up with solutions and strategies to this particular issue and they may claim them as their own which is fine.

Our job is to play Columbo because:

  • That works way better than if you lose your temper
  • It avoids the label of disruptive
  • And allows you to diagnose and treat in an organizational setting by asking questions
  • Rather than giving orders and getting in trouble

So there you go. When you're in a management or administrative meeting and you get upset because something's not right, breathe and use Columbo’s speech pattern. “I'm curious, I'm confused, maybe you can help me out here. I'm noticing this is in the mission statement and this is what we're doing, what's that all about? Help me out”.

I think you'll find the first time and every time you use it, it's going to be extremely effective and you'll prevent yourself from being labeled disruptive for sure.

So give that a shot, go into the comments down here and tell me how it worked for you. And until we meet in a live training at some point in time in the future, keep breathing and have a great rest of your day.


How did it go when you tried Deep Columbo in your last leadership conversation?

Tags: Physician Burnout, Physician Leadership, disruptive physician toolkit