Career advice

Dealing with a colleague who's holding back your team

Medical settings are fast-paced and busy, so if someone is not pulling their weight, it can have a big effect on the rest of the team and the quality of care being given. What if it is one of your colleagues who is not fulfilling their duties or performing to the required standard?

Medical settings are fast-paced and busy, so if someone is not pulling their weight, it can have a big effect on the rest of the team and the quality of care being given. What if it is one of your colleagues who is not fulfilling their duties or performing to the required standard?

Picture credit: Paul Stuart

‘The first step in dealing with this kind of situation should be to speak to the colleague directly,’ says Nick Simpson, CEO of health recruiter MSI Group. ‘There is a fine balance between working quickly and working safely and you may find that a colleague is being particularly diligent with tasks they are less familiar with.’

Michelle Brown, discipline lead for healthcare practice at the University of Derby’s Chesterfield campus, urges a cautious approach. ‘Ensure you’re not being too harsh or judgemental,’ she says. ‘If you still feel your colleague is not managing their workload in a fair manner, then an open, frank discussion may be required. This needs to be done sensitively because there may be personal reasons for their lack of interest or willingness to support you in the work environment.’

Do:

Try to discuss your concerns with the individual.

Seek assurance that the issue has been resolved.

Escalate concerns if you are not reassured about the outcome.

Report it immediately if you feel there is the potential for patient harm.

Report it immediately using formal incident reporting if you feel there has been a ‘near miss’.

Don’t:

Keep quiet and think it is not your problem.

Go straight to your manager unless there is the potential for patient harm.

Collect evidence to present to the culprit in the first instance.

Feel you are in the wrong.

Have the conversation away from other colleagues, advises Mr Simpson. ‘Approach the situation calmly and aim to find out why they might not be pulling their weight by asking questions,’ he says.

‘Try not to broach the conversation in a defensive way, or imply they are lazy. You may find they are less attentive because of personal stresses, or perhaps because they are struggling with their tasks.’

However, if the conversation proves fruitless and they continue to put off their duties, approach your supervisor. ‘Explain how it is affecting your workload, and the team’s productivity,’ says Mr Simpson. ‘If you have any concerns about patient safety being compromised, ensure you make these known to your line manager, as this could lead to potentially serious circumstances. If you find that speaking to your boss does little to resolve the situation, you could then speak to HR or contact your relevant union representative.’

Historically, escalating concerns has been difficult to do, admits Ms Brown. ‘But we are in an environment where failure to escalate concerns can cause serious harm to patients,’ she adds. ‘Health care is a profession that comes with the responsibility to keep patients safe.

Mr Simpson says that if a colleague’s work attitudes are starting to affect your ability to work with them, you must try and find a way to resolve the issue. ‘Even if your colleagues are equally aware of a colleague’s behaviour, try not to let it evolve into workplace gossip. Nothing good will come of talking behind their back’.

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