(Time to read: 3 minutes)
By Robert Campbell
With arrangements being put in place to appoint guardians to encourage and ensure ‘freedom of speech’ and prevent abuse in GP practices, practice managers might find themselves feeling like ‘piggies in the middle’. Bearing in mind that a number of Practice Index threads worryingly describe the culture of bullying that exists in some practices, the practice manager may end up being left to manage a difficult situation.
Sometimes even getting a word in edgeways can present problems for a practice manager faced with a group of strong-minded and strong-willed colleagues (made up of doctors, nurses and other practice staff) who tend to prefer their own ideas to yours. Is it a problem that is based on ego, you may wonder, or is it actually a time-management issue, where there’s just no time to listen properly, absorb, consider and decide – possibly in your favour.
Like it or not, practice staff need to remember who their employer is. It’s the piper who plays the tune and it’s the piper who pays your salary! How often are you faced with a situation where you know you’re right and yet you’re trying to deal with someone who basically defies you? They’re certain they’re right, although you know morally, legally and factually that they’re wrong.
So speaking up needs to become an art form. Choose your words with great care, and the time you raise your issue – a time when you feel it’s likely to hit home and stand some chance of being considered, hopefully favourably. How often have you heard “I’ve only got five minutes”? Annoyingly, you may eventually feel like giving up and may not persist in trying to get your message across. So you finally say, “I’ll send you an email.” And you ensure that the computer settings will let you know that the message has been read. If you take this approach, be sure to keep the email short and precise.
On the other hand, speaking up or speaking out might prove to be the wrong approach; you don’t want to get a reputation for always raising issues that fail. You might say, as I did once, “I will have my say!” Silence prevailed… But with this approach, I did not win. So choose your battles. Be well prepared and well informed. Think about creating the maximum impact with your words, but don’t stretch the argument too far. You need to stop them in their tracks for a moment to get their attention. Phrases like, “We have a complaint”, “We’re overdrawn”, “Your claim has not been paid”, “There’s a policeman asking to see you”, or “The surgery is on fire” usually work!
- Pick your times
- Pick your battles
- Minimise your words
- Keep calm
- Ask them to listen; it’s important
- Ask for a response, and maybe give a deadline
By Robert Campbell