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Chief physician throws resident under the bus

Hello guys,

I think you're going to like this one, Lucio. So as you know I work as a resident physician and two levels above me are Chief physicians, they are like executives.


I was at a teaching meeting where we meet every morning. It was an interactive session so we were 3-4 groups of 2-3 people around the table and each group was contributing to solving the medical case presented. I was participating as I enjoy it and I don't care anymore what they think about me. I'm not afraid of making mistakes as I'm the learner. I let them deal with their fixed mindset. Suddenly, the chief physician who gave us the case, turned to the group and tell them, talking about me and says:

Chief physician: "Be careful, he's taking the lead. He's going to take your position as attending physician".

I think quick, sense the change in temperature in the room and feel people starting to look at me. I realize I have to defend (thanks PU) and I reframe with:

Me: "I'm suggesting, I'm proposing, I'm participating"


Attending physician is the next level after the one I'm at. Once we complete our training, it's kind of difficult to find such positions. The pyramid is getting thinner near the top. In my case I have zero intention to be an attending in this organization. It's too mediocre for me. But in this case I cannot disclose it as it would be worse than saying "yes, that's my goal". So I reframed myself as a learner, which I am. I think since I've done PU, people can see that I upgraded my social intelligence so they perceive me more as a threat. That's my understanding, I might be wrong. What he did was to basically turn the group of my peers against me with the argument that in 2 years (yes in 2 years!!!) I will be taking their position. First, he's a manipulative f##k (but I already knew it). Second, that's value-taking. However, I'm proud of how I defended myself.

What else do you think I could have done?

What kind of case do you think this falls into?

I think this is more than being thrown under the bus.

Hi John,

Thanks for sharing that man. Sounds like a heavy situation to be pushed into the middle of (by your boss no less), congrats on your quick thinking!

I think that was a pretty good reframe. The frame the chief set was "leading" and you reframed that to "participating", which, it sounds like everyone was participating, so that might put you back to everyone's level.

Even better, might have been to say exactly what you just said. "I'm a learner, so I'm participating....". And, that might take you off the position of, "Look at John, he's taking the lead because he already knows what to do and say," and reframe to, "This is John, participating so he can learn how to be a better resident physician."

Just like you're mirror technique is a great way to respond to situations, I'm finding that using the TPM mindsets is a great way to respond to situations as well.

Also, as far as what case this falls into, "throwing under the bus" is usually when someone saves their own skin and puts you into heat to do so. In this case, the chief builds you up (John is turning out to be a great leader these days) and throws you into heat in doing so.

Wow, what a power move he threw.

It was a great reaction for thinking on your feet, John, well done.

Letting it slip would have been a bad move as that would have stuck in everone's head and from then on, you'd have been the "enemy" who was there to "steal" people's jobs.

Ali: I think that was a pretty good reframe. The frame the chief set was "leading" and you reframed that to "participating", which, it sounds like everyone was participating, so that might put you back to everyone's level.

Yeh, correct, it was good since it reframed from "leading (to steal a job)" to "participating and contributing to the team"

Did he say it jokingly or seriously?

In either case, since it was a BIG power move, and potentially very value-taking no matter if it was joking or not, it was fair to answer seriously in any case.

If you felt bold, taking it a couple of steps forward was also possible.
Maybe something like:

Chief physician: "Be careful, he's taking the lead. He's going to take your position as attending physician".
You: (looks around, very surprised, hands up, as if to say "what the fuck is he talking about, did I understand this whole thing wrong here?") I thought we were here to learn and become better physicians (taking it yet one step further: "at least, I am here to learn and give more")

That last one would have reclaimed all your power, plus gone a few steps forward.

It would have changed the frames as:

  • You: eager to learn and contribute
  • Him: selfish schemer whose only goal is to "advance"

That in turn, frames him as a bad leader, and you as a superior leader.

Of course, that makes that reply both effective and high-power and... Politically risky.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks for your answers guys.

It felt to me and to other people that he said it seriously. I did not find it funny and no one else did. He does not look like a mean person. My impression is that he’s lazy and selfish and to him power is the opportunity to exert less effort.

I hesitated to ask him after that why he said that. But now I learned that it’s better not to be too assertive with these people. As it risks to make an enemy out of them. Actually now between me and him, since he took from me now he owes me. I can now ask him advice and he won’t be able to refuse. Because now I can push the agenda further of « we’re here to learn. I would like to learn from you »

If you want the whole story: the learning session was about using a new online tool he developed with computer engineers. The goal is to have an online learning platform for future pediatricians. They would provide us with cases and we will use the platform as resource and work in groups.

That is already what they’ve been doing in the rival teaching hospital for 10 years. We’re behind because this hospital (and town) has a conservative mentality. It moves forward but so slow that it’s painful to watch (and be part of).

That shows that if you don’t have the right mentality, even with the proper tool there will always be something missing. If your mindset is of competition and getting the rewards you are not able to think as a group. And therefore you’re not able to leverage all the brains being present.

He developed a tool so the students can learn together, which was the purpose of this lesson. And he accuses me of being selfish. Pure projection. That’s sad. But it shows that there is plenty of room for honest and authentic leaders. It seems that he built this tool for his career. That is the difference at the hospital between people. Some people care for their careers and others for the team.

Tom Bilyeu says you can drop him in the most fixed mindset group. Not telling them who he is and he will still thrive. Now I agree, a growth mindset is unstoppable. It’s simple, but effective.

So I think that this guy is quite a good example of someone who’s too much of a Machiavellian. He’s scheming all day long so he thinks everybody’s doing the same.

That’s the thing with this organization and maybe many others. Since the schemers are are the top they recruit other schemers.

Don’t get me wrong. Being Machiavellian is smart. But being Machiavellian for what reason? For less work and a bigger house? Or  for a cause?