Hospitalists routinely confront clinical, administrative, and ethical issues. Sometimes they face less-identifiable issues, such as office politics. Webster’s Dictionary defines office politics as “factional scheming for power and status within a group.” Wikipedia describes office politics as “the use of one’s individual or assigned power within an employing organization for the purpose of obtaining advantages beyond one’s legitimate authority.”
How much does office politics affect hospital medicine?
“Of course there is office politics in any work environment,” says Heather A. Harris, MD, former director of Eden Inpatient Services in Castro Valley, Calif., and currently splitting time as a hospitalist at the University of California San Francisco and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Dr. Harris, however, believes office politics is rare within hospital medicine because, “It is a young field and a growing field; everyone is growing together, so things tend to be pretty democratic. This is especially true of newer groups.”
Then again, there are times hospitalists find themselves embroiled in office politics. When this happens, what should you do?
Take the High Ground
Although she’s encountered few cases of office politics in her career, Dr. Harris’ general advice for hospitalists is, “First, recognize it, and then try to be a good team player.” Stay above the fray and try to tread carefully around political situations, especially if you’re a manager or informal leader.
Mary Jo Gorman, MD, MBA, CEO of Advanced ICU Care in St. Louis, and former SHM president, advises hospitalists and group directors to “take the high ground, no matter how frustrated you become.” She stresses discretion: “You can talk about it to your spouse, but if you’re a leader, you can’t even [comment on someone’s behavior] in front of your group. You never know, especially if you’re in a relatively small community, when you’re going to need someone’s support. You need to stay on good terms with people.” Dr. Gorman’s advice for leaders holds true for individuals hospitalists caught up in office politics.