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How to deal with a teacher-supervisor

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Hello guys,

as you know I work as a resident in a hospital. In my situation I'm both an employee and a student as I'm in training as well. However, in my country most of the emphasis is on the work. So there is very little teaching even though the leadership thinks it's amazing or worse does not care. Therefore most of the knowledge we can expect to acquire at the hospital is through physicians who are more seniors than us.

That being said, there is little incentive for our direct supervisor to teach us stuff. It's part of their job but most of them know there won't be consequences for them if they don't prioritize it over other things like: running the clinic, paperwork, reading papers, research or networking.

So I now understand that I must find a way to suck up their knowledge from them as they're not playing fair. Also I think there are two barriers to that:

  1. They get mostly judged by how they run the clinic (patient flow, discharge letters sent on time), at least that's what the current new supervisor is under scrutiny for: "can you run the clinic efficiently?" I think she's changing from intensive medicine to oncology because of the odd hours but I don't know for sure. What I know for sure is that she wants to make a good impression to get a permanent job.
  2. It depends on their good will. My colleague is being a leech to our supervisor to learn stuff. They are also both italians so it helps.

My strategy is to be an effective employee and to give value so they would give it back (being on time with the paperwork is my biggest challenge currently). However I noticed that most of them don't care. They use us to execute tasks but teach us very little. Once again I think that my environment has a negative dynamics regarding knowledge which is jealously kept and not distributed freely. That is why I'm also looking for another environment.

Very quick message to re-start this thread.

This issue with the current strategy I see is that it's not much of an active strategy.

It's more passive value and not causing problems, and the issue with not causing problems is that people don't notice you.

The perfect IT system, say people in IT, is the system you don't even notice exists because it never breaks.
That's a great thing for an IT system, but the last thing you want in social interactions is people not noticing you (bar being noticed for negative stuff, of course, but we're past that here).

I'd look for some more active approach here.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks for your reply! What happened two days ago is that one of my patient needed a certain procedure. I let my supervisor do it because she has to show she’s worthy of working there. However, I learned later that she actually fucked me over. Indeed this was one of the few procedures that I could do in this service due to certain conditions. So instead of telling me she did it herself. The procedures are rare so our supervisors keep them for themselves. So they can have the skills but we won’t.

Later on I’ve been assertive with her and she framed it as if “I took it personally”. That’s the problem with the environment I’m in. It selects for hypocrite people. Once more I misjudged her. However this is a learning opportunity: it means I need to be more proactive as you just said. I also should have talked to her in private but I let my emotions control my actions.

I also made the mistake (once more) to tell her that I’m also an engineer.

That should be a rule: Never tell you direct supervisor advantages you have over him/her. Unless needed in a given situation (language skill in case of needed translation for instance).

So now I’m definitely on her radar: now she knows I’m aware of her manipulations. I noticed.

I know she loves chocolate so I’ll bring her chocolate. I got manipulated by a nurse who loves drama and my supervisor heard that I was complaining to her. That pissed her off. But what goes around comes around. Now I know I won’t stay in this hospital for long so I’ll do more political experiments. Now I’m sure of it as there is too much mediocrity going around.

My colleagues also told me: “we thought that you were not complaining enough”. And they were happy that I complained. So yes, it allows to bond with other dissatisfied employees but it also lowers you to their level. In the end it’s not worth it.

So I would say that complaining is ok to get things off your chest. It actually made me feel better. BUT don’t do it to people inside your work group. It gives them too much power over you. Lesson learned.

In this hospital, many people are bored and/or bitter. So they look for any opportunity to feel different: drama for instance. But I won’t let them use me for their entertainment.

I’ll bring chocolate to my supervisor and excuse myself. I’ll say that I was in a bad mood, which is true. She fucked me over and I was in a bad mood (the hospital trying to fuck me over other things added fuel to the situation).

She is still my supervisor and can make my life miserable. So I’ll submit for my own well being. No pride is needed. I made a political mistake by complaining to the wrong people. That is how I will repair it.

Guys, Do you think offering her chocolate is too submissive?

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood

running the clinic, paperwork, reading papers, research or networking.

It seems that you are familiar with the interests of the senior doctors.
I would capitalise on these as opportunities to advance your own learning and career.

Read papers in the same domain as the senior doctors.
Offer some general knowledge in the domain. Ask about their research interests.
You can do this hand-in-hand with building your network.
Since networking is important to senior doctors, your network is important.

I think she's changing from intensive medicine to oncology because of the odd hours but I don't know for sure. What I know for sure is that she wants to make a good impression to get a permanent job.

I sense an opportunity here.
Problems of your boss are opportunities to stand out.
She could potentially share a lot about both intensive medicine and ontology.

(being on time with the paperwork is my biggest challenge currently)

Being on time with paperwork could be important for your boss.

What happened two days ago is that one of my patient needed a certain procedure. I let my supervisor do it because she has to show she’s worthy of working there. However, I learned later that she actually fucked me over. Indeed this was one of the few procedures that I could do in this service due to certain conditions. So instead of telling me she did it herself. The procedures are rare so our supervisors keep them for themselves. So they can have the skills but we won’t.

This could be an issue of trust between you and your supervisor.
Hard to say from an outsider's perspective.

If she thinks you can deliver on her work, she would more willingly delegate the task to you.
As she would know that you can perform and it will look good on her.

Guys, Do you think offering her chocolate is too submissive?

I do not know enough to comment on this.
Giving your boss gifts may be viewed as being too chummy.
Many bosses would not like that.
To be safe, I would focus on appealing to the senior doctors' professional interests to advance your own.

I made a political mistake by complaining to the wrong people.

This is okay. It may leave a bad impression for now.
What I see is that there are lots of complainers in the workplace.
You could stand out by helping out your supervisor with her interests.
Then she could give you more important work as more and more trust is established.

My 2-cents on the topic as an outsider.

Lucio Buffalmano and John Freeman have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn Freeman

Hello Matthew,

This is very valuable perspective on this issue to me. I will definitely put it to good use.

It is a trust issue and I definitely need to perform better. What is annoying is that many bosses are neurotic and controlling in my context. So every time I change boss I have to start again to win their trust. The thing is that they give it very very slowly. It gets frustrating as even though I am now more advanced than I used to be it’s not taken into account. They do empower me but very slowly and with little. That is what I’m complaining about. I feel like our direct supervisor give us very little value. That is based on the premise that when they were resident they got little themselves. She said it herself: “when I started I had to wait a long time to do this procedure” even though the day before she said that the training she had was “shittiest”. So basically she’s doing the same than her predecessors.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood

On getting more learning opportunities, Since trust and personal care seem to be lacking in this situation, have you thought of a good old tit-for-tat?

You ask for it... And you promise something back.

Or the other way around: when you are asked to do something "extra", you ask for something back.
This second approach can be dangerous, so you need to do it well.
For example:

Boss: John, can you please stay longer this Friday...
Poor approach: I'll do that, if you...

That very calculative approach annoys people.

Better with our good old collaborative frames, plus some good "fair marketing value" to improve the social exchange negotiation:

Boss: John, can you please stay longer this Friday...
Better approach: Look, I have something scheduled (pre-frames as busy man, increases your social credit), but I'm always happy to chip in and help (general collaborative frame), so I can stay until X time (gives). You can count on me for supporting the team, 100% (more collaborative frame and giving). In exchange, may I ask XYZ (now the ask is framed with collaboration, and it protects the boss power)? I really appreciate any opportunity for learning (frames the asking in a positive light: it's to learn, which sounds less like a demand, but more like a fair request that's ultimately good for everyone)


QUICK OBSERVATION FOR POSSIBLE NEW TOPICS

Lots of great threads here that can be take onto new directions of their own.

Free free to open a thread for each one of these:

For example:

  • I also made the mistake (once more) to tell her that I’m also an engineer.

You mean "engineer" in the sense of system-level thinking, how to make things work at a higher level?

  • That should be a rule: Never tell your direct supervisor the advantages you have over him/her. 

Great point of political strategizing.
Among other things, it frames you as competition.

  • So now I’m definitely on her radar: now she knows I’m aware of her manipulations. I noticed.

Exactly, one more area in which assertiveness can be dangerous: with low-quality / manipulative bosses.
The moment they know you are better than they are, and you won't allow their games, is the moment you can become "the enemy".

One of the (smaller) costs of being high-quality: sometimes, you need to allow for lower quality people some space, when those people are above you in a work-hierarchy.

  • When your boss hears rumors of your complaining about her

Very politically sensitive.
Feel free to open its own topic for this one.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks for your answer! It’s very helpful.

I think this sentence structure is something you could keep for teaching material. This is a common occurrence.

I have two other university degrees in engineering. Sometimes I would admit I have one in a professional setting but never two.

@matthew: it was a trust issue. And also my supervisor goes back home later than me and she resented me for that. Tonight I stayed longer as there was a reason for it and I think it mattered. It's a stupid environment so it's the "if you stay late you're a good employee" mentality. Everybody resents it but they still play the game. So things are getting better and she teaches me more stuff.

Slightly off-topic, but:

John: I have two other university degrees in engineering. Sometimes I would admit I have one in a professional setting but never two.

Oh, wow, respect. You're probably the most educated person in here, John 🙂

John: It's a stupid environment so it's the "if you stay late you're a good employee" mentality.

Yeah, I'm afraid those places are not the exceptions, but the majority.

Or, at least, it's a factor in the vast majority of places.

Since who the boss sees around him working does matter, I'd also strategize around that.
For example, when I'd have to do my own things, I'd book a meeting room or sit on some beanie bags with my back against the wall so that nobody would see non-work related pictures on my screen.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Since who the boss sees around him working does matter, I'd also strategize around that.

Great advice. I'm going to capitalize on this. I'm also quite sure that when my boss was looking for me and I went home, my coworker was very happy to tell her so.

Oh, wow, respect. You're probably the most educated person in here, John

I don't think it really matters as Life is not a contest nor a race to me. Everyone has a different Life path: I made different choices and had different outcomes.

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