#072 CONVERSATION WITH A DOCTOR / LAWYER WHO COACHES THOSE WHO ARE BULLIED

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Last updated on May 5, 2021

To discuss bullying further, I've actually brought on an expert in the field. His name is Dr. Adam Harrison.  He is a lawyer who was previously a physician, and he is going to a true scenario that I'm going to discuss with him. 

Doctor Evka:  You think you're going to have it easy on this podcast, but you're not. LOL! Anyway, thank you for having an interest in this topic. There's not a lot of discussion on how the parents of children with feeding challenges or food allergies get bullied.  I want to start off if possible my discussing in actual case with you.  An actual situation that happened, and I want to get your opinion of what's going on.  Imagine yourself in this situation.  On paper, you signed up to work 40 hours a week on your job.  In reality, you're expected to work 70 hours, but no one told you about these extra 30 hours of unpaid work.  When you say that you  cannot work these extra hours because you need to care for your child has special needs, you are told that it looks like you do not work there.  You are told that other doctors whose children have special needs were able to work these hours just fine.  You are asked, "What's wrong with you?  Are you lazy?"  Your boss threatens to fire you because you're not working the hours that on your contract.  Your boss threatens to fire out for not working all of this extra unpaid overtime, and you have a noncompete clause.  This basically means that you cannot work somewhere else within a large mile vicinity within a certain number of years.  Basically, if you lose your job, you will be forced to leave your area and your child's wonderful special needs school.  Now, you might not think that this happens, but it does.  Many doctors are expected to work a lot more hours than what is written on paper.  It's not the only profession.  In other professions, what you work on paper and what you actually work in reality can be very different. There are jobs that require you to work a lot.  In any case, what would you do in this situation, Dr Adam Harrison, the physician turned lawyer.  We need to really have conversations about this topic because it's hard.  I know that one of your interests is in how medical professionals are bullied, and gosh, can they be bullied if  one of their children has special needs.  

Dr. Adam Harrison:  This is a good question. Before you do anything else, take a step back.  Calm yourself down. Go home.  Sleep on it. Don't do anything rash.  You need to go home, calm down, and process the situation fully. Then start with a plan when you are calmer.  Keep things factual.  Don't let your emotions come into it.  Don't put too much of it onto a child.  Do not try to make the reason why you can't be at work so much about your child. Even though you have a child with special needs, people get a little X@^*#!   They might think, "What makes your child better than my child?  I have children too.  Stop using this as an excuse."  Also let's be fair. We all have children.  We all want to spend extra time with them.  Just because my child doesn't have special needs does not make them less worthy of my time. 

Doctor Evka: I think it has more to do with therapies.  Some families need their children to get therapies, and it's not like the therapists are at their beck and call. They're already expected to work a lot.  Now if the therapist says, "I only have available on Tuesdays at 2 pm, and it's the only time that I have available. " The next therapist is an hour away.... You're going to think, "Well, I guess that I'm going to make it to the therapy appointment."  You do want to spend time with your child, but that's not the only reason why you need the extra time.  There's a real medical need. There's often a real medical need for the families to spend time with their children doing the therapies because an hour of therapy once a week might not be enough to see a great deal of improvement. 

Dr. Adam Harrison:  When you come out of the situation, you calm down.  You think.  You come up with what you want to say. Then you come back and discuss very factually.  You say, "This is my situation. These are the appointments that I need to go to."  Just bringing emotions to the situation heightens things.  There's a framework that might be useful to think about when you are tackling these situations.  Have you heard about the BOCA frame? 

Doctor Evka:  Tell me more.  I'm definitely interested.  

Dr. Adam Harrison:  BOCA.  Behavior, Outcome, Consequences, and Action.  There are hundreds of frameworks, but I fine this one to be quite useful.  

What was the behavior?  The behavior was how the boss was to you and what they said to you during the discussion.  Try to think about why they behaved like that.  Try to think about what is behind the way that they acted. Why did these say these things?  Perhaps they have their own stress in their lives like divorce or bankruptcy.  Maybe they have an illness of their own like a mental illness.  Maybe they had a bad day because they had an argument with their partner.  If you know some things that may explain why they acted in that way, you might start to think more about it being their issue.  You stop taking it as personally. There might not be any of these things going on.  They might be an actual @*!&#(#.  

The outcome is how that made you feel. When you speak to them, you say, "This is what happened. These are the facts. This is how it made me feel." There are some people to whom this would not even occur. When you tell them, they say, "Oh!  I can see how that could make you feel sad, upset, scare, or whatever...  Yeah, you're right.  I shouldn't have spoken to you like that."  Obviously, if they are a malignant narcissist, they're not going to give a !'&3!#*.  Most people aren't malignant narcissists.  Most do not go out of their way to be that unkind.  

Let's face it.  They might be in charge of the doctor.  They have a service to provide.  They're getting in the neck from the seniors about the goals that they are not meeting because there aren't enough doctors.  You tell them that you can't do enough hours, and it become the straw to break the camel's back.  

Doctor Evka:  Then you become the scapegoat.

Dr. Adam Harrison: Yeah, exactly, but they're probably not generally bad people. They have a service to run. They need people at work. They're getting it in the neck from the accountants in the company who care about the bottom lane.  

Now what are the consequences? The C in BOCA? What are the consequences of how it made you feel especially if your boss is unrepentant?  You either comply with your boss and do those extra hours, or you resign. This is a really difficult situation because there's a noncompete clause.  The child's really great school is in the area.  You don't want to leave because you can't do those hours.  Is there some sort of a compromise that can be had?  Maybe you do extra hours, but you do them at different times.  You work a bit more flexibly, for example.  That way you make it to your appointments, but you're also giving your boss what he wants.  Let's face it.  It's a lot easier for you boss to keep you and for you to do more hours but to do it around your other commitments.  That's easier than to advertise, interview, and go through the recruitment process with someone new.  That's costly, and it is a lot of hassle and time for them.  It's easier for the boss if they can keep you.  

Doctor Evka:  You have to work on restoring your relationship.  As a mom, even as a physician mom, you still have to set priorities, and for a lot of us, our priorities are still our children especially if it is about their medical care.  

Dr. Adam Harrison:  You have to think about your non negotiables. What can't you be flexible on?  It's the same on the employer side.   They have their non negotiable items.   On the face of the scenario, it looks like the boss is being nonflexible. This is before you have gone back to them and calmly and rationally explained the situation that you're in. Ask for some understanding.  I would put it back to them as far.  If they give you an explanation, you can ask them, "What would you do if you were in my situations? Can you suggest a way foreward where we can both the more satisfied?" Then come up with your plans.  People can hopefully take away from that not to go after each other like bullies in a china shop. Don't go shouting and screaming.  Go away from the situation.  Calm yourselves down. Then come back and start again.  Give them a way to think of things the night before they are meeting their manager.  I'm guessing this is a common situation in the United States.  

Doctor Evka: I think so. There are two things going on. The first is that you sign a contract to work a certain numbers of hours, and then you are expected to work all of these extra hours.  Maybe double the amount unpaid!  It was never part of your contract.  However, that's part of the reason why when you sign these contracts, they have these noncompete clauses.  Once you get into what you don't think that you would get into, now you're stuck. It's a little frustrating. The whole system can be a little bit of a medical bully towards medical professionals that are in it.

Dr. Adam Harrison:  In the UK, these bosses just won't write you good references for your next job. Let's say that you're an attending, and now you want to be an attending somewhere else.  Your bosses won't give you a good reference, so they would have you over a barrel in a different way. 

Doctor Evka:  It sounds like you would need to get those references in order to get a good future job.  It's hard either way.  Here we have private practices where physicians can work on their own and start their own practices. Nowadaways it's harder to start your own practice than it was before.  It's becoming more expensive to operate a medical practice even before you pay yourself.  

Dr. Adam Harrison:  You just pointed out some useful stuff to me.  That's why this is quite a  good discussion.

Now some of you may not be that interested in the plight of doctors because you think, "Oh well! Doctors make a ton of money. They probably have the resources to figure this out, and they chose to be doctors anyway. However, this kind of situation can also apply to many other professionals. A lot of professional parents!  You do not know what their situation is like unless you are living it.  If you are listening and get it, please, let me know.  Write a review of my Doctor Evka podcast.  

This is hard. Not everybody is in a financial situation where one parent can stay home and take care of the children.  Not everybody is in a financial situation where they can hire someone to help them. You have situations where you're expected to work a lot at your job.  If you don't work a lot, it's frowned upon.  You may be worried about getting fired. At the same time, at home, you're expected to do a lot of stuff for your child.  Take them to therapy!  If you are not taking therapy, then during those times, continue doing the same therapy so that they get as much benefit as they can.  It's a hard situation to be in.  I feel for you.  We'll discuss it more in a future episode

Dr Adam Harrison helps those who have been affected by bullying.

Dr Adam Harrison can be reached at: dr.adamharrison@gmail.com 

He is on Linked In as https://www.linkedin.com/in/dradamharrison.  

His Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Adam-Harrison-Coaching-and-Mentoring-for-Doctors-100558315034965





Three "legal" things:  First, either a male or a female could consider themselves to be a mother.  My job is to serve and not to judge.  Second, although I am a family physician, I am not your doctor or therapist.   Please see your and your child's doctor.  Third, the information presented here is for educational purposes only.  It does not constitute professional medical advice. 

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