TOT Tamer Advice Column: Managing Up

Dear Lynn,
I work with many doctors everyday. It’s hard to get to know anyone really well. Because doctors tend to be really arrogant and self-centered, I’m wondering if you can give me some advice on how to knock them back down to earth?


Hi Jon: First things first… let’s not knock anyone down to earth – that’s not the objective. You don’t want to be a Terrible Office Tyrant™ yourself do you?! However, it does sound like your doctor TOTs need to learn to play nice, and there are a lot of positive ways for you to help.

As you know, most doctors have extremely stressful and demanding jobs and unfortunately sometimes this frustration carries over into other areas of their lives. Rather than take revenge, maybe you can start “managing up.”

Pay attention to their triggers and anticipate potential problems. Sometimes, crankiness is fueled by things as basic as a lack of sleep and food. Although you can possibly offer a snack in some situations (but not in the operating room, please), there’s not much you do about sleep deprivation, other than offer understanding and sympathy.

Often times, people who exhibit these negative behaviors are just in fact insecure and need reassurance. Another possibility is that they lack alternate skills for handling their frustration and anger. One way to “manage up” is to open the communication channels yourself. Ask if they need any assistance, or better yet, ask them to tell you the best ways to support them. It doesn’t hurt to let them know that they are doing a wonderful job. When you begin with a positive approach, it’s easier to break the news that their negative behavior is hurting those around them. Let them know you are willing to help, but articulate your limits clearly and concisely. Be empathetic and friendly – it will go a LONG way. Oh, and remember… no snacks during surgery!

Best regards,


Got a TOT? You’re not alone! Dare to share your story at the TOT Blog with other TOT tamers in the making, while Lynn helps you: cope with difficult or childish bosses and office politics, and humanize your workplace™. Post your question for Lynn, and she will try her best to answer it in an upcoming TOT Tamer Advice Column. Be sure to visit the Tame Your TOT site.