How I tackled a tough conversation with my boss


I had to get real with the practice owner to save to save our working relationship-and change the negative atmosphere lingering in the practice.

Normally, I'm the sounding board when things go awry at our clinic. And generally, I don't mind listening. So imagine my surprise and surprise when, at my annual review, the owner placed the responsibility for the bad feelings lingering in the practice on my shoulders. In one year, I went from Most Valuable Employee to Miss Grumpy Pants.

As a woman, I try to be tough, but by the end of the review, I was almost in tears. I shuffled the responsibility and blamed an estrogen-filled work environment. I generalized that we all have bad days and agreed one person could affect a whole crew.

But my mind was consumed with how often the owner had come to work in a storm cloud and put everyone on edge. As a result, no one wanted to work with him. I could tell he was flaming mad when team members scurried up front to help me all morning. Of course, working alone in the back didn't encourage a better mood.

But by mid-afternoon, after a pot of coffee, food, and completed surgeries, he usually morphed into a jovial person, throwing our team for a loop. We would whisper to each other, “How is he now?”

After the burden of the last year, including working with a new associate who was becoming difficult, I finally reached my breaking point. I accepted another job for less pay to escape the ongoing moodiness that wouldn't leave our clinic.

When I called the owner to give my notice, he didn't handle the conversation well. He spent more than an hour trying to convince me to stay, and he promised he'd change. I cried. I told him I didn't want to leave but felt I had no choice. Then he became frustrated because he couldn't convince me to stay.

In a fit of irritation, I asked him who was going to confront him when he had a bad day. I told him no one wanted to work with him, and I dealt daily with the rifts this caused in our practice.

At first, my boss was speechless. Then  he sputtered and blustered, and I could picture his face turning red. He tried to say that never happened. I rattled off a few examples, and he admitted he occasionally came to work in a bad mood. But, he said, it was events at work that caused the sour mood.

So what do you do? You finally confront your boss about his attitude and he unwillingly admits you're right, so you're compelled to meet halfway. But even saying as much as I did sure opened his eyes. I don't think he ever imagined anyone would confront him. And he certainly never thought he did anything wrong. There's some unwritten rule that your boss is always right, right? Well, the rules have changed.

As it all turned out, I stayed at the practice. The atmosphere improved, and the owner demonstrated a new respect for me because I stood up to him. And I had new respect for him, because he admitted I was right. It takes a lot to confront someone, but even more when it's your boss. Heck-it only took me nine years.

No one likes to rock the boat, but it beats treading water for months or years. And since our heart-to-heart, it's much easier to discuss problems at the clinic. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

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