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Confronting Subordinates

The days of the doctor being viewed as “The Captain of the Ship” seemed to have past us by as there are more and more people and authorities that seem to be telling us what we need to do administratively and even what we are to do for our patients. Yet, as physicians, we remain in a position of authority over many of those we encounter in our practice. We began our discussion identifying the types of people we oversee. This very much depends on our individual practice situation. The group mentioned receptionists, LPNs, physician extenders and nurses in our offices, technicians and nurses on the hospital wards, the ER and OR, medical students and residents. We then spent some time sharing the types of behavior that we find frustrating or even harmful to our care for patients. The list of those is too long to list but the most commonly mentioned were problems with attitudes of caring for the patient and  an apparent unwillingness to correct previous behavior errors that had already been pointed out.

We then discussed whether we have a greater tendency to jump in and confront misbehavior or are we more liable to let it go for the most part. Each of these tendencies have their own consequences that we  also discussed. Those who confront and try to correct the errant behavior may find their time eaten up with these responsibilities and sometimes are engulfed in more controversies as the accused may react in an unfavorable way. It was mentioned that those of us who do not take the confrontational path wind up having to live with a poor situation that remains uncorrected.

We then read Ephesians 4:25-32 to gain insight in how to speak with others about issues that need to be addressed. Vs 25 says we are to put off falsehood and speak honestly. We discussed how choosing not to speak up when something clearly needs to be addressed is basically being false and not honest. Sometimes we can become so put off by a situation that we become angry with the person. It was pointed out in the discussion that Vs. 26 addresses this and warns us to not sin in our anger. We discussed past occurrences when our anger had risen up and how if we act during an angry moment things will usually become worse. The offended person can become the sinner by acting out of their anger. We discussed ways to avoid this including taking a moment to relax and regain composure and most importantly pray. Pray for yourself but also for the person you will need to speak with. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your conversation.

In Vs 29-32 there are further general tents that are implied concerning confronting others. Among those that we discussed were:

  1. Have the correct intent when confronting. The whole point is to build the person up and not tear them down. We mentioned it is always a good idea to lead off with what you value in that person’s performance. VS 29 says let only wholesome talk come out of your mouth.
  2. Speak only the truth. Get all the facts about a situation before addressing a situation. Avoid the hearsay of others – this is the “slander” mentioned in Vs 30. We discussed how sometimes we learn about a situation but when both sides of the story come out, the “offender” was not wrong in the least.
  3. Have humility about your role in the situation. Confess whatever fault may have been yours – perhaps you may have not taught correctly or should have addressed things sooner with the person. See the plank in our eye before the speck in the other person’s (Matt 7:3).
  4. Pray for the person and the discussion. Pray for those who persecute you (Matt 5:44). It was pointed out it is very difficult to remain angery with someone once we have prayed for them.
  5. Getting an additional witness to help the discussion if necessary. Jesus guides us in Matt 18:15-17 to confront our brother alone but if they do not listen to have a second or third person  with you. We discussed this point a great deal. First it was pointed out that correcting a person’s behavior in front of others is not a good idea. This can often lead to feelings of shame, embarrassment and anger for the person you are trying to correct. We also discussed who are the people you should take with you if the person needs to be confronted with two or three witnesses. This very much varies on the role of the person you are confronting and the overall situation.
  6. Correction needs to be loving and with the right intent but it also has to be bold. It was stated that sometimes we are so concerned with hurting someone’s feelings or how they will react that we don’t say what needs to be said. Jesus confronted people (mostly the Pharisees) boldly and with strong words when necessary.
  7. We need to confront with compassion and forgiveness (vs.32). The whole point is speak words of compassion and forgiveness so that the person experiences change and restoration.
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