Is It Time to Fire Your Boss?

A lot of physicians are filled with stress and anxiety at the thought of being fired from their jobs. However, when I talk to physicians who have been terminated, they tell me that they thought about quitting their jobs long before they got terminated. They knew the job wasn’t a good fit or they felt that “something was not quite right”. So instead of being worried about being fired, it may be time to think about firing your boss, that is, quitting your job. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if it is time to fire your boss.

  1. Are you happy? Does working at your current position bring you joy? Do you enjoy the work you do, where you work, and the people you work with? If not, you may need to consider leaving. Physicians spend entirely too much time at work to be unhappy. Most physicians work 60 hours a week, and this is a huge amount of time to be unhappy.
  2. Is your job making you sick? Literally and figuratively. Do you feel physically ill before going to work each day? Do those symptoms subside over the weekend only to return Sunday evening? Has your job taken a physical toll on your health? I know a hospitalist who worked herself to the point of exhaustion. She collapsed at work and went to the ED where she was found to be dehydrated. The ED doc told her she was burned out. Does your job cause you emotional and psychological distress? Are you burned out? If so, you may need to consider leaving your job.
  3. Do you like the people you work with? The other physicians, staff, administrators? Do they like you? Do they understand what you do and value your work? I once had the CEO of a hospital tell me that his job was more stressful than mine. I am a critical care physician and I was managing a 24 bed ICU all by myself. He sits in meetings all day. He also told me that I knew how big the ICU was when I took the job and that “if I could not stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. I no longer work at that hospital. If the CEO of the hospital does not know, appreciate, or care what you do as a physician, you may need to find a new place to work.
  4. Is there room for advancement at your current job? Is your current employer concerned with your career development? Do they invest in your continuing medical education? Are they helping you develop your leadership and business skills? I decided to pursue other interests outside of my jobs when it became obvious to me that despite obtaining my MBA, that I would always be a staff intensivist.
  5. Do you have other interests that are at odds with your current position? Does your job prohibit any outside medical activities such as moonlighting, speaking, working as a consultant, or being an expert witness, for example? Does your current contract have an “intellectual property” clause that entitles them to the proceeds of any outside work you do while working for them?
  6. Do you fit in? Do you fit in with the people you work with? Do you fit into the organizational culture of the institution? I worked a hospital that had a “family-like atmosphere” and only cared about keeping certain people happy. Because I was less concerned about not hurting an incompetent nurse’s feelings than taking care of my critically ill patient, I was “disruptive” …I no longer work at that hospital.
  7. Is the place you work responsive to your needs and concerns? Do they listen to you when you bring up patient care and safety issues?
  8. Do you feel like you are jeopardizing your medical license every time you go to work? Do you feel that because the place you work is unsafe due to the volume of work you are expected to do and/or the level of staffing that is available?
  9. Is your current employer in financial jeopardy? Have they been losing money? Are they about to lay off staff? Are they about to be acquired by another organization? I once left a job after 9 months partly because the hospital was having financial problems and was laying off the staff.
  10. Does your job cause problems in your personal relationships? Has your marriage suffered because of your job? Are you spending less time than you would like with your kids? Are you always missing out on important family events because you have to work? Have your friendships suffered? Are you unable to date because of your job? Do you feel that you have to delay starting a family because of your job? If the most important people and relationships in your life are suffering because of your job, it may be time to find a new job.

The decision to leave your job is a tough one. However, just as our bosses critique our job performance, we need to start critiquing theirs. If the job doesn’t live up to our expectations, then that may be grounds for termination…us terminating our jobs and firing our bosses!

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