Episode 113: What To Do When A Junior Is Badmouthing Your Colleagues with Dr Ed Pooley

Have you ever heard a colleague badmouthing others? What was your knee-jerk reaction? Many of us would hesitate to call them out, even if we feel we should. Perhaps you’d prefer to report what you’ve seen to upper management. But is this the right way?

Dr Ed Pooley joins us in this episode to discuss what we should do when we see inappropriate behaviour like badmouthing. He shares how we can manage difficult conversations with the intent of helping others. We also discuss the importance of recognising triggers through the SCARF model.

If you want to know how to deal with difficult conversations for a better workplace, listen to this episode.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Learn how to manage difficult scenarios where you’re unsure how best to respond.
  2. Discover Dr Ed’s three-step process to approaching difficult conversations.

  3. Understand that everyone has triggers behind their actions, even badmouthing. Recognise the triggers that may be driving their actions.


Episode Highlights

[04:16] Why Tough Conversations are Tough

  • Even if you know what the right thing to do is, it’s often still difficult to manage a tough conversation.

[06:20] Ed: “Absolutely. We have a tendency to pick a more socially acceptable way of framing things when we feel that we can’t do something.”

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  • We often already know what to do but don’t know how to do it.
  • If we want to avoid conversations, we often pick a socially acceptable reason for it, such as being confused, tired, or putting it off for another day.
  • It’s also easy to worry about upsetting people, stressing us out even more.

[07:26] What Not to Do When You See Badmouthing

  • Dr Rachel shares how a social media post asked advice on what to do about a senior badmouthing his juniors.

  • To her surprise, one of the first replies suggested reporting the senior’s badmouthing immediately.
  • Reporting these behaviours is not only inappropriate — it will also create team disharmony.
  • At its core, reporting others is rooted in your sense of right or wrong and the belief that wrongs need to be punished. It also absolves your ownership of the situation.

[10:55] Ed: “The question we really need to ask ourselves is, ‘What do we do in that situation?’ Do we quickly jump to, ‘You’re an awful person because of something you said 15, 20 years ago?’ Or actually, ‘You’re a normal person who has an ability to change how they are and change their perceptions over time.’”

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  • We also see this in social media. People make mistakes, but others are quick to gather together and punish the person instead of helping them grow.

[11:41] How to Confront Difficult Conversations

  • We usually make excuses to avoid addressing issues and difficult conversations. Excuses are our brain’s way to make us feel okay.

[13:34] Ed: “If we’re in a situation where we need to give someone some feedback, or we need to tell someone that something they did is not an appropriate way of doing it, we start to worry about the righteousness of that call, the okayness of that.”

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  • Ask yourself these two questions first: what is going on for the person that may have led to this behaviour? Is this behaviour the appropriate way for them to voice their issue?
  • Remember that it’s vital to separate the cause and effect. Even if the reasons for the behaviour may be valid, the effect is not.
  • There’s always a reason for people’s behaviour. Don’t be quick to judge and try to understand them first.

[16:11] Learn to Listen

  • You cannot have a conversation if you’re not interested in the other person’s perspective. We often assume people have malicious intent, but most people don’t.

[16:25] Ed: “You can’t have a conversation where you are not interested in the other person’s perspective and where they’re coming from.”

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  • Learning about others’ perspectives will calm down your brain and give you something tangible to address.
  • You don’t need to take sides. Instead, present your observations and ask about what was happening in the other person’s life when they acted that way.
  • Once you gather that information, bring up how their actions, such as badmouthing may not be appropriate for voicing their concern. Listen to the full episode to learn more!
  • Remember that it’s not about being right or wrong.

[18:59] Ed: “What was the seed of disharmony or discontent that triggered that behaviour in the person and then caused the response? We don’t really want to start from a position of assuming everyone has malicious intent, because the majority of people don’t.”

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[19:16] Helping Others and Assume Good Intentions

  • Interpersonal dynamics issues often occur because people believe they know other people’s thoughts and assume ill intent.

  • Assuming the reasons behind people’s actions and immediately putting a label on them can push them further away.
  • Instead of judging people, learn to ask if they’re doing okay or struggling.
  • If you want to develop assuming good intent, Dr Ed recommends imagining the person upsetting you is a child.
  • When you confront someone, you don’t assume that their actions are done with ill intent. Respond in a way that helps them change their behaviour for the better.

[22:08] Ed: “There’s pressure, there’s fear, there’s the need to communicate quickly and effectively. So, if you’re coming from that mindset and that perspective, you may have seen people who you looked to, thinking, ‘Well, they look really confident. What do they do? They’re very clear and they tell people what to do.’

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[23:41] Recognising the Chimp State

  • It’s hard to have difficult conversations when people are in their chimp, or aggravated, states.

  • The chimp state’s predictors are commonly facial colouration in the cheeks, muscle tension, dilated pupils, and a heightened autonomic function.
  • It can also be about the language they use.
  • Learn to recognise your own responses so you can see them in others too.
  • Connect with others first. Then you can move on to understand them and give feedback.

[27:29] SCARF Model for Recognising Triggers

  • Your actions may trigger other people’s chimp state.

  • The SCARF model explains triggers, and stands for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness.
  • Be aware of hierarchies and society so you know how to navigate it and make it fairer.
  • We shy away from feedback often because we’re uncertain about its outcome.

[31:49] Value People’s Autonomy

  • Autonomy is related to people’s control over their environment or position.

  • When seeing inappropriate behaviour like badmouthing, consider whether the person doing it feels that it’s their only way to have more control over the situation.
  • Frame your intentions into a request, such as whether the person will be willing to change or guide them to coming up with a solution themselves.

[34:01] Feedback Can Build Relationships

  • Difficult conversations should not destroy relationships.

  • Your feedback should help build up the team and make it work better.

[35:40] Ed: “‘Well, why are you doing it that way? What is doing it that way achieving? Is that working for you?’ Or, is there perhaps a different way that we could be doing this? Because my aim, as the person giving you this feedback, is actually to build up the team and make it work better.”

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  • Be neutral, clear, and non-confrontational.

[37:03] Be Fair

  • Know the roots of the fairness trigger. It should not be about wanting to punish others but finding out whether your feeling of unfairness is grounded in reality.
  • Don’t fall into over-generalisation of beliefs.
  • If you want to ask others about fairness, don’t ask whether something feels fair or not. Give them autonomy by asking how the situation can be made fairer instead.

[40:09] Keep Practising

  • The more difficult conversations you have, the better you’ll be able to handle them.

  • When people react negatively or emotionally to your feedback, it may be their defence mechanism.
  • There will be times when you should press your feedback, change your tactic, or take a pause.

[42:25] Dr Ed’s Tips

  • Start with connection, then information, and lastly, action.

  • Having challenging conversations will make you a better communicator.
  • Leadership success is based more on emotional intelligence.
  • Always assume people have good intentions and keep their best interests at heart.
  • Be aware of triggers.

About Dr Ed

Dr Edward Pooley is a communications skill trainer focused on helping his fellow doctors communicate better. He has experience in General Practice and is a former speciality doctor in Emergency Medicine and Chronic Fatigue/Rehabilitation Medicine. Before stepping into medicine, he was a researcher in molecular biology and genetics of neuropathology and behaviour.

Dr Ed has an interest in psychology, communication, and medicine. These fields led to his passion for equipping his fellow healthcare practitioners with the skills to have difficult conversations. He also wrote the book Managing Time in Medicine: Developing Efficient Consulting in Primary Care. He shares his message about communication and time management skills with Ten Minute Medicine and his Facebook group.

Learn more about Dr Ed and connect with him on Facebook and LinkedIn. Join his Facebook group and participate in discussions about understanding communication in medicine.

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Episode Transcript

Dr Ed Pooley: When that chimp part of us, that lizard brain, or however you want to call it, is active, and we get that emotional response of, “I can’t believe that’s happening. That’s so inappropriate. That’s wrong.” Doctors and healthcare professionals often have a very strong sense of justice — a very strong sense of what’s right and wrong. If you’re to have an emotional state where you feel anger towards someone else, or frustration, it’s almost a knee-jerk response to say, “Report.”

Because that instantly absolves you of ownership of the emotional state. You’re basically saying, “Well, you’re not like me; you’re different. You’re a bad mouther.” Or “You’re a bad mouther who needs to be punished or sorted out or fixed.” So therefore, that external agency can do that.

Dr Rachel Morris: Ever been in a situation where someone’s acting in a really inappropriate way, and you’re not sure whether to call it out or not? Maybe you’re not sure exactly how to have the conversation or even if it’s your place to have it. Maybe you’re worried that if you do, you’ll just become the next person on the list, or your relationship will be doomed forever.

In this episode, Dr Ed Pooley, communication skills expert with a background in general practice and I discuss one of those tough calls, where we probably know what we ought to do in a certain situation, but doing it just seems too hard. We chat about the importance of listening to understand — not just to be heard, and how to approach this in a way which leaves the relationship intact, if not stronger. I’m sure that if you were doing something which caused difficulties your colleagues, you’d like someone to call you out on it.

So tune into this episode, if you want to be able to do the same for others. Listen to find out what so many of us get wrong when trying to confront tricky situations. A simple model which will help you understand the things which are guaranteed to trigger other people, and why our first knee jerk reaction could make things ten times worse.

Welcome to You Are Not A Frog, the podcast for doctors and busy professionals in healthcare and other high stress jobs — if you want to beat burnout, and work happier. I’m Dr Rachel Morris, a former GP, now working as a coach, speaker and specialist in resilience at work. Like frogs in a pan of slowly boiling water, many of us have found that exhaustion and stress are slowly becoming the norm. But you are not a frog. You don’t have to choose between burning out or getting out.

In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues, and experts — all who have an interesting take on this, and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you will live and work. We talk a lot in the podcast about the zone of power and other coaching productivity and resilience tools and principles, which I found made a huge difference to me personally, and also the teams which I worked with. I put all these principles and tools together to form the Shapes Toolkit. This is a complete package of resilience, productivity, tools and training for doctors, healthcare teams, and other busy leaders.

We’ve been delivering Shapes Toolkit courses all over the country in the form of keynote talks, webinars, workshops, online memberships and courses, and full or half day live programs. We’ve been working with GP training hubs, new-to-GP fellowship programs, return-to-practice programs, trainers, groups, health and wellbeing projects, and many more organisations. We’re now taking bookings for summer and autumn 2022 and have a few slots left for spring 2022. So if your team are feeling overwhelmed with work, one crisis away from not coping, and want to take control of their workload, feel calm and work happier, do get in touch to find out how we can help.

So it’s great to have with me back on the podcast today, a friend of the podcast, Dr. Ed Pooley Welcome back Ed!

Ed: Morning, Rachel. How are you today?

Rachel: I’m very well, thank you. It’s a nice sunny day, which just is lifting my spirits. So anyway, we’re back today, and Ed is a communication skills trainer with a background in general practice. It’s wonderful to have him back. We have a series of podcasts: Ed and Rachel’s Tough Calls because there’s lots of stuff that comes at us, whether we’re practising as doctors or in other health care areas, or even in another high stress profession. The stuff that comes at us that we just don’t really know how to handle — or maybe we do know how to handle them, but we don’t really want to, or it just feels really difficult and really awkward. I think that’s really one of your special, isn’t it? In digging down into how we can have those tough conversations that we really don’t want to have.

Ed: Absolutely. We all face those situations where we know what to do, or we don’t know what to do. When we know what to do, it’s often difficult or challenging. Having a set of skills that you can fall back on or practice in that situation gives you a much better outcome going forward. If you’re in that situation…

Rachel: I was reading a book recently by a chap called Donald Miller, who I talk about quite a lot. I really love his work. Now, he’s given some sort of business advice, and he was talking about that fact — he once was having some coaching, and his coach said to him, “Donald, stop choosing to be confused.” I thought that’s interesting. They said the reason was, he was discussing a difficult issue with an employee or someone in his organisation, and the narrative was, “I don’t really don’t know what to do. I’m really stuck with this. I’m really confused.” The coach said to him, “You’re not stuck at all; you’re not confused. You know exactly what you need to do. The problem is you don’t want to do it, and it just feels too awkward.” So do you think it’s mainly that we do know what we need to do, it’s just how to do it that we get stuck with?

Ed: Absolutely. We have a tendency to pick a more socially acceptable way of framing things when we feel that we can’t do something. So, if we’re not sure how we’re going to approach something, it’s going to be okay. We might say we’re confused. If we’re wanting to avoid conversations, we often say we’re tired or, “Not today, we’ll do it tomorrow.” Those kinds of approaches, because they’re more socially acceptable. I think the key is that you have to separate what you need to do from the emotion of what you need to do. If you do that — for example, in Donald Miller’s case, he knows what to do, but the emotion is causing the stress. That’s leading to the confusion because he’s trying to balance what he knows he needs to do with an emotional state he doesn’t want to feel. That’s where the confusion comes in.

Rachel: That’s so true. Because so many of these difficult conversations are only difficult because we’re so worried about upsetting the person. We feel stressed and anxious about it. Actually, we do really know what we need to do. Let’s dive into a dilemma this week. This one, I actually spotted on social media. It was posted as a dilemma, and I thought it was really interesting, particularly some people’s reactions to it.

So essentially, the dilemma went like this: “I lead a team, and one of my juniors has been bad mouthing many of the seniors and undermining them. What should I do?”

Now, on the face of it, it seems pretty obvious what you should do. But I was really fascinated to read a lot of the replies, because one of the first things that was written underneath this post was, “Report them! Report them! Completely unacceptable.” I thought, “Hang on a sec. If you think back to your own training, did you ever criticise your seniors behind their back ever? Perhaps you probably did. Did you ever moan about things? How would you feel if you got reported immediately, without anyone speaking to you?” So I was quite shocked and surprised because actually the people that were saying this were quite well-educated and quite well-meaning people. So, I thought I would bring this to you to sort of unpick. I mean, am I right that it’s pretty obvious what to do here? Or is it not particularly obvious what to do here?

Ed: My gut feeling is — as I suppose many of the listeners might be, is tell them to stop. It’s not an appropriate thing to do. It creates team disharmony. We’ve spoken about this concept of team disharmony and the type of workplace that you want to work in before, haven’t we? The answer is very simple: You tell them to stop. But, we fear conflict. We fear someone saying, “Well, I’m not both bad mouthing the colleagues.” Or, there’s that gaslighting type of response, and it becomes much more complicated. There is a simple strand of what you need to do that becomes overly complicated.

I think when that chimp part of us, that lizard brain, or however you want to call it, is active, and we get that emotional response of, “I can’t believe that’s happening. That’s so inappropriate. That’s wrong.” Doctors and healthcare professionals often have a very strong sense of justice — a very strong sense of what’s right and wrong. If you’re to have an emotional state where you feel anger towards someone else, or frustration, it’s almost a knee-jerk response to say, “Report.” Because that instantly absolves you of ownership of the emotional state. You’re basically saying, “Well, you’re not like me; you’re different. You’re a bad mouther.” Or “You’re a bad mouther who needs to be punished or sorted out or fixed.” So therefore, that external agency can do that.

I think that happens quite a lot. We see on social media all the time where there are errors, there are problems, people make mistakes. Then very quickly, it becomes a very much as in almost like a tribal type of approach. For example, if you take people who say things on social media 5,10,15 years ago, when social media was in its infancy, and people were not as guarded, as they perhaps are now, they may have said something inappropriate. The question we really need to ask ourselves is, “What do we do in that situation?” Do we quickly jump to, “You’re an awful person because of something you said 15, 20 years ago?” Or actually, “You’re a normal person who has an ability to change how they are and change their perceptions over time.” Because surely, that’s what we want. We want someone to be able to grow and develop as a person, don’t we? But that sits uncomfortably with us, because we think, “Well, I never did anything like that.” Well, you probably did, but social media wasn’t there at the time to capture all of those transgressions you did, which would have allowed you time to grow and develop as a person, which actually benefits society as a whole.

Rachel: I got to look back at social media, and I’m constantly so pleased that I grew up in a time where you can stick things on Facebook; you couldn’t mention things on Twitter; things weren’t recorded. You didn’t go out for the night and have it plastered all over social media the day after. I think it’s really, really these days. Yeah. It becomes very, very black and white, doesn’t it, when it’s on social media? If you look at this dilemma, if someone’s bad mouthing their seniors, well, it’s obvious, tell them to stop. That’s a bad thing to do. But, then as you get into the nuances of it, well, maybe some of the seniors are a bit crap. Maybe they’re not pulling their weight, or maybe it’s a really difficult place to work, and that junior is not seeing what the senior does. Maybe the junior is really frustrated with the processes that are going on. Maybe they’ve been treated unfairly — all those sorts of things.

You suddenly go from a very black and white thing, based on social media, to a really, really, really nuanced dilemma. I think the issue is when we start to see the nuances as excuses and reasons not to then address it. Because whenever we do training on difficult conversations and conflict, you always say, “Why haven’t you addressed it? Think of a difficult conversation; you should have had enough. Tell us why you haven’t had it.” “Well, not quite sure if I was the right person, or maybe I’ve done something wrong, too. Therefore, have I got the authority to address it? Am I right?” What if, what if, what if?” and all these different things start to make you confused about, “Should you address the issue?” Well, yes, you need to address the issue, but then we come up with all these excuses. Are they valid excuses, do you think? Or are they just our brain’s way of trying to get out of something we don’t want to do?

Ed: I think it’s our brain’s way of trying to feel okay. If we’re in a situation where we need to give someone some feedback, or we need to tell someone that something they did is not an appropriate way of doing it, we start to worry about the righteousness of that call, the okayness of that. I think for me, in this dilemma, someone bad mouthing their seniors creating team disharmony — clearly something has led to that behaviour pattern. What is going on for that person that has led to that pattern of behaviour? That’s question one. Question two is, is that an appropriate way of voicing discontent or upset? That’s an easy, “No,” isn’t it? So, what we can do by separating out the cause and the effect is to give our brains a little bit of a break, and say, well, “Let’s just focus on the effect.” The cause may be valid, but the effect is not. So, how do we have a conversation with that person so that we can validate the cause and find out if there is a problem and deal with it in a better way?

I might approach that person and say, “What’s going on? I noticed that you’re not happy with some of the things that your seniors are doing. You’ve made a couple of comments that would suggest to me that there’s an issue going on here. What I’d like to do is to find out your perspective.” Taught me three things. So hopefully that’s given you have a relatively non confrontational way of having that conversational opener. Then, the person may say, “Oh, it’s nothing.” But then you’ve drawn attention to the behaviour and it may stop. Or they may say, “There is a massive problem. I can’t stand the way that so and so belittles me, so my response to that is to bad mouth, to be passive-aggressive, to be all of those non overt ways of being hostile or aggressive, which people do.

Rachel: That makes a lot of sense, because there’s always a reason for somebody’s behaviour, isn’t there? People don’t behave in a vacuum; they behave based on the memories of what’s gone before, based on what’s triggered them, based on past experiences, based on what they expect, and mostly based on what their unmet needs are. So when someone’s bad mouthing someone else, there’s some need from that person that is not met. Either that’s a need to be treated properly themselves, or maybe there’s a need to try to make themselves look good in front of other people and be accepted and recognised. Maybe they’re worried about their own performance, so they’re sort of trying to deflect, I think the problem is, so often when we think of these conversations that we’ve got to have, it’s us versus them — us giving them difficult feedback. But what you’ve just said, actually, all difficult conversations start off with huge amounts of listening.

Ed: Absolutely. You can’t have a conversation where you are not interested in the other person’s perspective and where they’re coming from, “What is the information that they have, that I may not have? Can I learn something by getting that information?” Because if you’re not getting that information, or that perspective, and using it to form how you respond, you’re only really doing half a job, or you’re ordering. That’s not a conversation; that’s an order. So ,by taking those extra steps and finding out information, that has two effects. One, it calms your chimp brain down from panicking, because it gives you something tangible to address. And B, it gives you the opportunity to have a much better conversation. Because you’re getting information that you can use to have that better conversation.

Rachel: Yeah. I think we do struggle with collecting that information. I know that I’ve always worried that if I go and have that conversation, it might then seem including. Because what I wouldn’t want to do is go and have a conversation and then it sound like I’m slagging off my colleagues or whatever. So, how do you have that listening, exploratory conversation without colluding unnecessarily agreeing, but in an empathetic way, so their inner chimp isn’t triggered? So they feel that you — I was just gonna say on their side. That’s sort of, I guess, on the same branch, rather than on their side.

Ed: Yeah, so I might start that conversation by saying, “I’ve noticed that you made a comment about Person X. What was happening for you when you said that?” Again, that’s an entirely neutral way of saying things you’re not saying, and I agree. Or what you’re saying is justified at that point; all you’re doing is data gathering. Then, when you’ve captured the data, you can then say, “Do you think that was the appropriate way to go about voicing that concern you had? Because from my perspective, I don’t think it was. So what I would like to do is to give you a chance to say the thing that you’re concerned about in the most appropriate way, and for me to use that information, in order to make this situation feel better for everyone.” If there is a genuine problem that you uncover, then it’s your responsibility to then decide what to do with that going forward. Again, we need to get away from this right or wrong. What was the seed of disharmony or discontent that triggered that behaviour in the person and then caused the response? We don’t really want to start from a position of assuming everyone has malicious intent, because the majority of people don’t.

Rachel: Yeah, I think that is so important. That thing about what you’re assuming their intent is, and that, I think, is when people get really, really triggered. I’ve talked about this before, I think on the podcast, and probably with you as well — this thing about being over the net. I heard it from Carol Rubin, David Bradford, who’s written a book called, Connect, from a very brilliant course that they run, I think, at Stanford University, which is all about interpersonal dynamics. The students know it as the touchy, feely course, but it’s really, really popular in their business school.

They talk about the fact that any problems in interpersonal dynamics, it’s generally when you’re assuming, you know what is in the other person’s head. That is basically completely over the net. So, I’m just thinking that if you had made some derogatory comments about some stuff, and I came up to you thinking, “You were just doing it, because you thought they are better than everybody else.” Then I’m going to say, “Ed, come on. That wasn’t nice.” Either assuming, implying that you were trying to be mean or nasty, or whatever. That automatically triggers people, when they feel that they are misunderstood.

I’d love to talk about the SCARF model in a second, because I think that’s really helped me with really recognising what sorts of things are gonna trigger people. I’m assuming that you meant to be horrible — that you’re doing it for some sort of personal gain, rather than assuming good intent. So, maybe assuming that you were doing maybe to try and change things that were frustrating you or assuming that you do have good intent, it just came out the wrong way. That is going to really, really change how I then approach you about that.

Because I think, we hate being misunderstood, don’t we? We get very offended. I remember, as a junior doctor, I was being accused of being sort of autocratic and aggressive. I really didn’t mean to be that; I just didn’t know how else to act when people didn’t do what they needed to do. But, they assumed I was trying to be bossy, I was trying to be horrible. Actually, the reality was, I was lost. I was at my wit’s end, and I was really worried that the job wasn’t getting done and worried about the patients. Now, if they’d have expressed that to me and said, “Maybe you could ask in a different way,” that would have been much, much more palatable to just assuming I was trying to be difficult. But it’s very, very difficult to assume good intent, when we are feeling sort of backed into the corner ourselves when our inner chimp’s around, isn’t it?

Ed: It is. I think that example that you gave is a brilliant example, because — I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I’m guessing that in that junior doctor state, there’s pressure, there’s fear, there’s the need to communicate quickly and effectively. So, if you’re coming from that mindset and that perspective, you may have seen people who you looked to, thinking, “Well, they look really confident. What do they do? They’re very clear and they tell people what to do.”

So you model that behaviour, but actually, that’s driven from a place of fear. So you’re not — again, in that situation, you weren’t being malicious, and you weren’t trying to upset anyone. You were just trying to do what you thought was the appropriate way of acting. But instead of giving you feedback and saying, “Are you okay? Are you struggling with any part of this job? Is there something we can do to help? How can we make this feel better?” People were saying, “Oh, you’re autocratic. You’re bossy. You’re all of these labels that we attach.”

I think, one way of assuming good intent is to imagine what you would do if the person doing the thing that’s upsetting you is your child. If you see a child — your child hit another child, what do you do? You know that’s wrong; you tell them it’s wrong; you assume they didn’t do it maliciously, and you respond in a way that allows them to shape and change their behaviour for the better. Because they are doing something, and something has triggered that behaviour. What you’ve done is taken a step back. You know the behaviour is wrong; you’re going to tell them it’s wrong. But you’re operating from a position of trying to understand what’s going on for that person.

Rachel: That makes a lot of sense. I think, assuming someone is your family member and treating them as such is really, really helpful. Because then what’s happening is you’re going — the relationship is there, right? Because we’re the same family, you can’t get rid of me. I absolutely have your best interests at heart. So, I’m going to be absolutely honest here. Also, when you’re talking to your child, you would never — well, in probably in retrospect, you would never have that conversation while they’re still really aggravated, and in the corner wanting to hit people and really angry. You’d need to wait until that comes down, and then, they themselves don’t really go, “Oh yeah, that wasn’t the right thing to do.” and you’re like, “Probably better ways of doing that.” And it’s all much better. Do you think that we always know when people are in their calm state? Or can some people be quite triggered and quite anxious, have their chimp out state without us knowing?

Ed: Oh, that’s a difficult one. I think, if you’ve taken training and you understand about psychology and body language, you can see predictors of people being in their chimp state. They have facial coloration in their cheeks; their muscle tension is higher; their pupils are dilated; they’re in that state of heightened autonomic function. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, which is the majority of people because it’s not something that particularly interests them, then it is quite difficult. So you have to be switched on to the language people use. Is the person using neutral language? Are they using aggressive language? Are they using defensive language? If it’s anything other than neutral, there’s probably an emotional state that is attached to that. What’s interesting is to try the experiment of trying to detect the emotional state.

What I did a few years ago, I used to be into martial arts quite a lot. I remember doing a training course where the idea was to prepare yourself for somebody attacking you when you weren’t expecting it. In the same way that doctors do CPR training, if you drill that behaviour, you learn how to recognise your own autonomic response in the face of threat. What was really interesting was this guy was dressed up in this full padded suit, and he was deliberately trying to wind me up and irritate me, so that I could feel the adrenaline and then know what to do with it. What I did was — the thing that defused the situation completely was, I said, “What’s your name?” and he went, “What?”, because he was so expecting me to be aggressive or confrontational that the thought of me trying to connect with him, totally disempowered him.

He was like, “My name’s Jeff.” I was like, “Well, my name is Ed. How you doing today?” What? This isn’t how it’s supposed to go! I think, if you start from a position of trying to connect with others first, then try and understand them, then feedback, that gives you a good pattern of things that you can do. If you if you try to connect with someone, that’s almost never a bad thing. Because it allows you to, like you say, sit beside them on that tree and understand what’s going on. People would recognise that from interactions with patients where there’s been difficulty, or interactions with clients, if they work in the legal profession where there’s been dispute or upset. Connection first, information and feedback second is a really good approach.

Rachel: That’s really good advice. So I think we are probably all walking around a bit like Inspector Clues or Waiting for Cato. Especially, I think as a junior doctor, there’s a lot of criticism coming at you from everywhere. You’re never on the right board at the right time. There’s 20 people who want you at once; you’re being too slow, forget to do this, the patients are waiting, so you’ve got it coming from all sides. So you’re gonna be very, very easily triggered into that stress zone — into your chimp zone. I think, as a senior member of staff, you really need to be the one to make that connection, to be really, really aware of the fact that you might trigger someone, and I think we don’t quite recognise enough of the things that might trigger somebody.

The SCARF Model has helped me really a lot with this. I mean, you can obviously go back to the neuroscience and go — okay, the really basic stuff that triggers you is physical threat, coming towards you, about to be run over by bus. The group threat will trigger you, because if you were thrown out of a cave — when we lived in caves — if the group didn’t like you, you were kicked out of the tribe; you would die of exposure, be eaten by a bear etc, etc. So, we don’t want to upset people. That is an existential instinct. Then, there’s that hierarchical one as well; the alpha male, challenging you. But, David Rock came out with a fantastic model called the SCARF Model, which we use a lot when we talk about change, and what sort of things trigger people. I keep coming back to this because there’s an awful lot of these SCARF factors are at play in almost everything we do in medicine and these high stress jobs.

SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. Now, status — we can think of status as, if you get challenged by the alpha male, then you’re not going to react well, but status is at play in all sorts of interactions, isn’t it? Whether you’re a doctor or another healthcare professional, or a patient, or a manager, there’s all this sort of difficult interplay, and we were talking — I think it was on a webinar with someone quite recently about the fact that someone’s a doctor or has a particular position can actually trigger other people into the corner. As they notice that hierarchy — even if you don’t, just think the very fact that you are a senior person talking to a junior person, there will always be that status involved even if you’re the nicest person in the world, and you don’t believe in hierarchy, and you don’t act like that. Would you agree with that?

Ed: Absolutely. I think, if you’re aware of all of the various hierarchies and differentials in society, that gives you more power and potential to navigate that structure. Because it’s there; we know it’s there. So, why do we pretend it isn’t? Let’s try and acknowledge it and work out how to either make the hierarchy fairer, or how to navigate it better.

Rachel: Jo Bircher, actually, was talking when she did the podcast about leadership, about the fact that if you are in a meeting, you are in a commission, then automatically people will stop talking if you’ve said something, because often they see a hierarchy that you might not see. So, it’s very difficult to get everybody’s opinions about things. If you’ve gone off and given yours, which we do — we offer opinions so quickly, don’t we? As doctors, it’s just what’s been drilled into us. So, that really made me think about, “Just remember that hierarchy.”

So that’s going to trigger people immediately. Even if you’re the nicest person in the world, just the fact that you are more senior, having a conversation with a junior about something that is quite tricky, is going to potentially trigger that person. You’ve got stuff around certainty, so if you don’t quite know what’s going to happen, if there are some unknowns, — and I think a lot of the time we shy away from giving difficult feedback, because we don’t know if we’re right or not. We don’t know if what we’re going to suggest is going to have a good outcome or not. So that, again, is very triggering for people — that whole piece around certainty. You can certainly see that playing out and change autonomy. Now, how do you see autonomy playing out in these sort of difficult conversations that we have to have?

Ed: I think that’s about control. Do I have control to change my environment or the position I’m in? For example, in this dilemma, we’re looking at a junior colleague, who is bad mouthing seniors. Is the only way that they feel they can change a situation — be it in a really dysfunctional way — by bad mouthing? Or is there a mechanism by which they can experience more control? We talked about this on a previous podcast about control and breaking down the bits that are in our control and the bits that are in others’ control, and how we might use that information to improve a system. Because we know, particularly in healthcare, that giving people autonomy to report problems or feedback appropriately saves lives. It has a huge impact on the ability of the healthcare structure to function more effectively. Because it’s so big, that if you didn’t use all of your healthcare staff as almost like feedback sensors to know where things are and whether things are moving and working appropriately, you’re losing vital information.

Rachel: That’s really interesting. So I wasn’t even thinking about it from that point of view — that we need to give people control over how they feedback, etc. I was also thinking about it from the conversations’ point of view. I think earlier you said, “I would tell them that it wasn’t appropriate.” And that, “Do you think that was appropriate?” and, “I’d like you to do this in the future.” I was wondering whether that might actually trigger someone’s autonomy. Like, “You can’t tell me what to do or how to act!” Actually, maybe framing things either as a request, “So would you be willing to do this?” Or, even better, get them to come up with a solution themselves.

Ed: Well, that’s the thing that would promote autonomy, isn’t it? I don’t want to jump the gun in the SCARF model, but fairness is also in there. So, is what you have done a fair way of doing it? The sort of do unto others type of mantra, I guess.

Rachel: Yeah. It’s interesting though, because nobody likes to be told what to do. When someone says, “You’ve got to do this,” you’re like, “So I’ll do it my way.” You find that with coaching, don’t you? You can see, really obviously, what needs to happen and you might even suggest it to a friend and they just go, “No, that’s not gonna work.” Then, three months later, they go, “Oh, I thought I’d do this, should I?” “I told you that three months ago!” Really, would have been — they have to come up with it themselves.

It’s much better for people to come up with the methods, the suggestions themselves, so that as much as you can facilitate that in the conversation, that will help with the autonomy thing. Then you’ve got a cost relatedness in relationships. What I quite like about the SCARF model is it’s not just about threat; it’s about what you’re drawn to as well. So, all the research about the amygdala is, yes, it pulls us away from the threat situations, but it also pulls us towards things and belonging; it will pull you towards to relatedness; it will pull you towards — it’ll pull you away from a threat to your relationship and towards building relationships, that if you could maybe phrase this in a way that, this is going to pull us towards good relationships within our department or within our team, and provide some reassurance that having this conversation isn’t going to affect our relationship, or give them some reassurance. How would you do that?

Ed: I think it’s easier if you start from a noncritical approach. So for example, you can say, “Well, why are you doing it that way? What is doing it that way achieving? Is that working for you?” Or, is there perhaps a different way that we could be doing this? Because my aim, as the person giving you this feedback, is actually to build up the team and make it work better. And that includes helping you within the team, feedback about things that you’ve noticed or a problem, but in an appropriate way.”

So again, nothing I’m saying here is very confrontational at all. But it is being very clear and very boundaried and very neutral, which hopefully shouldn’t be pushing their adrenaline amygdala response too hard. I think what’s really interesting if we look at particularly neurobiology is the relative impact of dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline, and oxytocin as those are the four key transmitters that modify most of our behaviour in terms of reward, pleasure-seeking threat and connection-seeking. It’s a fascinating, newer field of that sort of neurobiology of behaviour that I think having an awareness of is really useful.

Rachel: Yeah. So it’s really, really changed the way I’ve been thinking about these sorts of things. Just recognising when someone is triggered in the corner and the fact that that is really going to change their responses. Let’s just talk about fairness. Because fairness seems to be really universal thing. In every single culture that has been studied, fairness is the is the thing that really triggers people — if that is breached. I’m thinking in this sort of conversation, if I was that junior, I would on be on high alert for fairness, because I’d be thinking, “Well, how come we’re talking to me? Everybody’s moaning; this isn’t fair.” Or, “Well, they can act however they want to, and I’m the one getting a good old rollicking here.” So how does one avoid triggering that response to fairness?

Ed: I think get the information out early. Say, “Is this is this something that you’ve particularly noticed and are frustrated about? Or have you noticed that lots of people are frustrated about it? If so, and I don’t want you to name any names here.” This isn’t about seeking to punish people. This is seeking to find out, “Is what you are saying — does it have a basis in reality? Is it really what’s happening? Is this what everyone is doing? Or is it just something that you’re doing?” Because that’s a fair approach. You’re not singling someone out and saying they just happen to the person you’re talking to.

But what you’re gaining from them is the,”Is it just you who’s noticed this? Or are lots of people noticing it?” Because, again, when we’re in that amygdala response — and I’m aware that some of this may be triggering that amygdala response for them — we tend to think in black and white ways, because we need to for that for that response to be as quick and as effective as it is when we’re under threat. So they might say, “Everyone is saying it.” and you’re like, “Everyone? Is there anyone who isn’t saying it?” Don’t try and get them to explore that. In the same way that you might with a child who says, “Nobody likes me.” Really? “Is it nobody, or is it one particular person you’ve had an issue with?” This is generalisation of belief.

Rachel: Could you check in with them about the fairness thing? Say, “Is this feeling fair to you? Or do you think there’s anything here in what I’ve said that isn’t fair?” Is that a good suggestion? Or is that just gonna…

Ed: I think it is. The concern is that it’s almost a presupposing question, isn’t it? You can’t really say no to that. If someone is in a hierarchical position to you and saying, “Am I being fair?” You’re like, “Yes.” You know, you can’t. It kind of prevents you from saying the “No.” — there is a lot of pressure. So you might say something like, “How might this feel fair? How might this feel fairer?” rather than making a “is this or isn’t it?” Which again, is giving them an increasing sense of autonomy because you’re giving them the opportunity to feedback to you and model how to give feedback appropriately.

Rachel: What should you do if you notice that someone that really has been triggered, but you’ve got to have this conversation? I mean, we always teach, press the pause button; do it another time; give people a chance to get out of the corner — all those sorts of things. But sometimes, you do just have to have these conversations. What do you do in those situations? It is ever good just to push ahead or do you always just have to go, “Okay, I can see this as difficult,” because what if you’re in a position where it’s always gonna be difficult, and there’s gonna be no time when they’re not triggered?

Ed: I think you have to read it, depending on the feedback you’re getting. Sometimes, you just have to push forward. Sometimes, you just have to press pause. The more times you have these conversations, the better and more nuanced your ability to decide when is the most appropriate route to take. In the same way that I wouldn’t want anyone listening to think, “Do we really have to have some protracted conversation about a behaviour that’s frustrating and irritating and causing disharmony in the team for every transgression?” No, you don’t. But by having the skill set to manage it, if it becomes a more complicated conversation, is going to be helpful.

Rachel: What do you do about those people that every time you try to feedback, they burst into tears or get very angry? So very soon, it’s just learned that you just don’t say anything to upset that person.

Ed: I would pre-warn them. I would say, “We know when we’ve had this kind of conversation before that you found it upsetting, but it is something I’m going to need to say.” So I have to say it, and you just have to be very clear about that. Because sometimes, that sort of walking out, crying — those almost sort of unconscious processes and behaviours, are often there as a defence. They’re usually not, but sometimes they are a defence mechanism, which says, “Don’t carry on. Don’t continue.” Sometimes you have to change tack and approach it in a different way. Again, it’s about practising the conversation, to know how to manage it — to say what you have to say, in the kindest way possible, in a way that builds connection.

Rachel: Because there’s so much in all of that. We could talk about this for a long time, but we don’t have forever. So Ed, if you are answering that post on social media, what would be the summary of the steps you should take to deal with this issue?

Ed: Connect first; information second; content third. So, build a connection, find out all the information, and then work out a plan of what you need to do. With that process, you are trying to differentiate between what you need to do and the emotion associated with what you need to do. So that way, you’re being consistent. In the same way that if one of your friends were bad mouthing someone and someone told you about it, you’d have a very different response than if it was someone you intensely disliked that you found out was bad mouthing someone. That’s all down to the emotion of it, and your ability to let someone off the hook. For instance, if you know them better or might understand the situation, give other people that chance to build connection and gather information and understand how your own brain works when you’re having conversations that are challenging. It makes you a better communicator, and that’s never a bad thing.

Rachel: Totally. I mean, I remember, when we’re teaching about emotional intelligence, we’d always say that, as a leader, some of your successes are down to IQ, but actually not that much. As a leader, probably 80% of your success is down to emotional intelligence, and the way that you can do these sorts of things. So it’s a really, really important skill. I think, from what you’ve been saying, the things I’m taking away is firstly, approach assuming good intent from that person. Assume they weren’t trying to be malicious, but they’ve got some unmet needs that aren’t happening, and we need to try and uncover those. And treat them as a close friend or a relative, so you’ve got their best interests at heart.

I think, just be aware of all those triggers, all those things — perhaps in the SCARF model — that may be triggering them, that you may not have thought about, particularly hierarchy. When it comes to the senior to the junior, you might think you’re being as fair and as open and as empathetic as possible, but when you said — when you just stopped me just now and said, “Actually, that sounds like if you’re a senior saying it’s a junior. Is that fair?” I would have thought that was a really reasonable question to ask. But yes, someone else might says, “I can’t contradict her because she’s senior.” So keeping that autonomy, always throwing the ball back in their court, so they’re not feeling that you are using your hierarchy to get your way. I think that’s really important. Well, we’ve covered a lot there.

Ed: We have. It’s been a good dilemma. Let’s see what the audience throws next week or next time.

Rachel: Totally. So, if anybody else has got a dilemma they would like us to discuss around interpersonal relationships, difficult conversations — anything, really, just email us at hello@youarenotafrog.com, and we will try and tackle that.

Ed, thank you so much. If people wanted to hear more about your work, find out more about what you do, where should they find you?

Ed: So, every week I post on my Facebook group, which is Difficult Conversations in Medicine, and that is primarily open to healthcare professionals. If you want more information from me, or you want to look at getting me to look at how your organisation communicates, or something like that, drop me an email at edward@tenminutemedicine.com, and I’ll be happy to have a chat with you.

Rachel: That’s great. We will also put a download link in the corner handout there. So, if you’re interested in the corner response, in your amygdala response, just go there. You can get that. We also have a Facebook group called the Shapes Collective. So, if anyone wants to pop in there and discuss things, then please do. You can put some dilemmas in there as well, and we can pop in there and have a look.

So that’s great, Ed. We’ll see you next time.

Ed: Perfect. Thank you.

Rachel: Thanks, bye.

Thanks for listening. Don’t forget, we provide a self-coaching CPD workbook for every episode. You can sign up for it via the link in the show notes. And if this episode was helpful, then please share it with a friend. Get in touch with any comments or suggestions at hello@youarenotafrog.com. I love to hear from you. And finally, if you’re enjoying the podcast, please rate it and leave a review wherever you’re listening. It really helps. Bye for now.

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Podcast links

Get in touch and book a slot with us for live program courses of the Shapes Toolkit. Bookings are now open for Summer 2022 and Autumn 2022! We also have a few slots left for Spring 2022.

Learn more about Dr Ed Pooley on the Ten Minute Medicine website and Facebook.

Join the FB Group about difficult conversations in medicine.

David Bradford and Carole Robin wrote the book Connect and Relate, inspired by their legendary Stanford Business School course Interpersonal Dynamics.

Dive deeper into the SCARF model with The Handbook of NeuroLeadership by Dr David Rock

Hero on a Mission by Donald Miller.

Looking for advice on a dilemma? Email us at hello@yourenotafrog.com.

Want to learn more from Dr Ed? Here are some of our previous episodes with him!

  • Episode 108: What We Wish We’d Learnt at Med School with Dr Ed Pooley and Dr Hussain Gandhi
  • Episode 90: What To Do About Bitching and Backbiting
  • Episode 85: Being a Good Communicator and Navigating Difficult Conversations
  • Episode 74: Managing your Time in a System which Sucks

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We hear from the expert in conflict management and mediation, Jane Gunn. She discusses important tips to keep in mind to host great meetings. She shares some practical conflict management tips and how to make decisions that you and your team agree on. Jane also emphasises the importance of putting the fun back in functional meetings and the need to give a voice to participants.

Episode 93 – How to Delegate, Do It, or Drop It with Anna Dearmon Kornick

Anna Dearmon Kornick joins us to share the time management strategies crucial for busy professionals. She lays down tips on how medical practitioners can have more control over their days. Anna talks about how to manage admin time and imparts ways to combat distractions. We also discuss the importance of delegation both inside and outside work. For this, Anna introduces the passion-proficiency lens and knowing your zone of genius.

Episode 92 – How to Avoid Becoming the Second Victim with Dr Caraline Wright & Dr Lizzie Sweeting

Dr Caraline Wright and Dr Lizzie Sweeting join us to discuss the second victim phenomenon. They explain why patient safety incidents are occupational hazards and how they can affect healthcare providers. Caraline then shares her personal experience of being in the “second victim” role. Finally, they share tips on how to avoid second victimhood and how to provide support to someone going through it.

Episode 91 – How to Break Up With Your Toxic Relationship With Your Career with Dr Pauline Morris

Dr Pauline Morris joins us to share her career counselling advice for physicians and other professionals in high stress jobs. We discuss the common pitfalls that lead doctors to unsustainable work habits. Pauline also sheds light on why staying in your comfort zone can be detrimental to your performance. To avert this, she shares tips on how to better recognise and advocate for your own needs. We also learn about the importance of self-care and taking time for yourself.

Episode 90 – What to do About Bitching and Backbiting with Dr Edward Pooley

Dr Edward Pooley joins us again to discuss what to do when colleagues make inappropriate comments about others. We talk about why it’s crucial to consider the question behind the question in workplace backbiting. Ed also teaches us how to challenge in a supportive way. Most importantly, we learn some strategies to prepare ourselves to speak up when the situation requires it.

Episode 89 – Should I stay or should I go? with Corrina Gordon-Barnes

Corrina Gordon-Barnes joins us to share how to better relationships and take control and stay in your zone of power. She shares how to make a good decision by questioning thoughts and assumptions. We also discuss how you can change your perspective to become more compassionate, accepting, and empowered. If you want to know how to better relationships, stay in your zone of power, improve your decision-making skills, and be true to yourself, then tune in to this episode!

Episode 88 – How to Ditch the Saviour Complex and Feel More Alive with Rob Bell

Rob Bell joins us in this episode to discuss the perils of the saviour complex and the desire to keep hustling even when we’re miserable. We learn that taking time for rest and reflection only helps us get stronger. You can’t heal and help rebuild a broken system if you don’t look out for yourself first. Tune in to this episode to find out how to ditch the saviour complex, feel happier and live a more fulfilling life.

Episode 87 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Episode 5: What Should I Do When I Think a Complaint is Unfair? And Other Questions with Drs Sarah Coope, George Wright, Samantha White, and Andrew Tressider

We’re joined by a panel of expert guests to share their thoughts on how to handle complaints. Together, we discuss ways that you can adjust your perspective and respond to unfavourable situations. Most importantly, we tackle issues regarding malicious complaints and how to cope with them. If you’re having trouble managing yourself during complaints, then this episode is for you.

Episode 86 – Gaslighting and Other Ways We’re Abused at Work: What’s Really Going On? with Dr James Costello

Dr James Costello joins us to talk about his new book and the insidious ways that organisations and individuals can undermine us. They compel us to do extra emotional labour for us to cope with the workplace dynamics. We also chat about what happens when authority and power are misused. Finally, James shares some of the disastrous consequences bullying in the workplace can have and what we can do about it. Tune in if you want to know what to do if you suspect that you or a colleague are experiencing relational abuse in the workplace!

Episode 85 – How to have crucial conversations with Dr Edward Pooley

Good communication between colleagues is crucial for the success of any organisation. Dr Edward Pooley joins us again to teach us how to communicate well. He discusses the three strands present in any conversation and helps us understand how we can be more aware of each. We also share some frameworks that can help you navigate difficult conversations. Understanding the importance of emotion is crucial in being an effective communicator and connecting with your team.

Episode 84 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Episode 4: Creating a Workplace Where It’s OK to Fail

Professor Susan Fairley and Dr Jane Sturgess join us to discuss how to create a workplace that doesn’t shy away from failure. We talk about how civility can save lives and also touch on the issues around incident reporting in healthcare. Most importantly, we talk about creating a culture where people can have difficult conversations without defensiveness. If you want to know how to approach failing and speaking up in the workplace, tune in to this episode.

Episode 83 – The Ups and Downs of Being a Man-Frog with Dr Chris Hewitt

Joining us in this episode is Dr Chris Hewitt who also uses the metaphor of a man-frog in coaching professionals to have a better work-life balance. Chris talks about why we find it so hard to recognise burnout. He also shares his top tips and practical strategies to address work dissatisfaction. If you want to stop feeling like a man (or woman) - frog in a pan of slowly boiling water, listen to the full episode.

Episode 82 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Series Episode 3: Surviving the Process

Drs Jessica Harland, Caroline Walker and Heidi Mousney join us in this episode to discuss healthcare professionals’ experiences when dealing with complaints. We talk about the different emotions you may experience and practical tips on getting through. If you want to know how to survive the process after making a mistake at work and receiving a complaint, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 81 – When Soft and Fluffy Met Coronavirus with Steve Andrews

Steve Andrews, Associate Director of Leadership for East and North Herts NHS Trust shares how, through using just five crucial questions, you can check in on people, rather than check up on them. The 5 questions will help you to find out how people really are, help them look out for their colleagues, empower them to solve their own problems AND communicate empathy and support. Want to know how you can apply compassionate leadership in your organisation? Then, this episode is for you.

Episode 80 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Episode 2: What to Do When You Make a Mistake with Drs Clare Devlin and Dr John Powell

Drs Clare Devlin and John Powell join us to discuss the proper way of responding to professional mistakes. We talk about why doctors have a hard time whenever they make a mistake at work. Clare and John also share valuable advice on minimising negative consequences and getting a good outcome for you and your patient. If you want to learn a roadmap for what you should do you make a mistake at work, then tune in to this episode.

Episode 79 – How to Give Yourself Permission to Thrive with Dr Katya Miles

Dr Katya Miles joins us once again to talk about burnout and giving ourselves permission to thrive. Having experienced work burnout, Katya shares her story and discusses the red flags of burnout. We also talk about why we find it difficult to give ourselves permission to thrive and how we can overcome our own internal barriers. If you want to learn about how you can listen to your needs so that you can thrive in work and in life, then this episode is for you.

Episode 78 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Series 1: Preparing to Fail Well with Drs Sarah Coope, Annalene Weston and Sheila Bloomer

Drs Sarah Coope, Annalene Weston and Sheila Bloomer join us in this first episode in a new series on ‘Complaints and How to Survive Them’ to talk about coaching doctors and dentists through complaints made against them. We also talk about the perfectionist mindset and how changing our perspective towards failure can help us and those around us. If you want to know how to deal better with complaints made against doctors and other professionals in high-stress jobs, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 77 – Denial, displacement and other ways we neglect ourselves with Dr Andrew Tresidder

Dr Andrew Tresidder joins us to talk about how many medical practitioners and other professionals in healthcare and high stress jobs neglect their health and well-being. We're so focused on taking care of others that we forget to take care of ourselves but our well-being is vital if we want to keep doing the work we do. Find out why healthcare professionals need to learn more about health, as opposed to only learning about disease and if you want to know how to focus on taking care of your health and well-being, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 76 – Tech Tips for Happy Hybrid Working with Dr Hussain Gandhi

Dr Hussain Gandhi, or Dr Gandalf of eGPlearning, joins us in this episode. He is a GP, PCN director and host of the eGP Learning Podblast that shares deep dives into health tech for primary care. He shares his tech and time hacks for hybrid working to survive and thrive in the new virtual environment. If you want to find out how to improve your hybrid working experience, then tune in to this episode!

Episode 75 – How to Escape the Drama Triangle and Stop Rescuing People with Annie Hanekom

Annie Hanekom joins us to shed light on the different roles which interact in the drama triangle. She shares the pitfalls of taking on each role and how we can actively shift from these roles into something better, fostering healthier relationships at work. If you want to know more about how you can step out of the drama triangle, have better conversations and build healthier relationships with your colleagues, make sure you tune in to this episode.

Episode 74 – Managing your Time in a System Which Sucks with Dr Ed Pooley

Dr Ed Pooley joins us in this episode to share his take on time management techniques for busy individuals. He discusses the three types of competing demands and how to manage them. We also talk about being more comfortable holding difficult conversations about workplace issues - vital to help change the environment we work in. Tune into this episode to discover how time management techniques and communication can help you get a calmer and more time-efficient workplace.

Episode 73 – How to Find Your Tribe: The PMGUK story with Dr Nazia Haider and Dr Katherine Hickman

Dr Nazia Haider and Dr Katherine Hickman join us on this episode to discuss the importance of a work community. We talk about the inspiring stories from the online community they created, the Physicians Mums Group UK (PMGUK). Nazia and Katherine also share their tips on how to increase connections and find your own tribe at work. If you want to know how to create a network of supportive colleagues and feel more connected, then tune into this episode.

Episode 72 – Working well – from anywhere! with Dr Katya Miles

Dr Katya Miles joins us to discuss how to work well from home by creating healthy boundaries. She shares how to be more productive by using the third space hack and taking breaks. Katya also talks about how to be more active and better connect with people in the workplace. If you want to learn about working well from home and achieving a better work-life balance, then tune in to this episode.

Episode 71 – Create a Career You’ll Love with Dr Claire Kaye

Dr Claire Kaye joins us to discuss how to find a career you love. As an executive coach specialising in career development, Claire is an expert in guiding people how to find a career they love. We talk about the value of job networking and diversifying in our career journeys. We also share our tips and experiences on how to find a career you love. We do this by helping you identify the roles that best suit you and how to go about getting these roles.

Episode 70 – How Safe Do You Feel at Work with Scott Chambers

Scott Chambers joins us to talk about why we need to make people feel comfortable and safe enough to speak up in their workplace. When we create psychological safety in our team, we improve overall happiness and boost performance! If you want to learn how to create psychological safety for a better and happier team - whether you’re the boss or not, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 69 – Make Time for What Matters with Liz O’Riordan

Liz O'Riordan joins us to share productivity life hacks. These have helped her transform how she approaches work. Now, Liz can spend quality time with her family and enjoy life. In this episode, she teaches us how we too can achieve this. If you want to learn some new life hacks, beat burnout and work happier, then tune in to this episode!

Episode 68 – The Revolutionary Art of Breathing with Richard Jamieson

Richard Jamieson discusses how we can utilise breathing techniques to feel calmer, make better decisions and be more productive. He explains the different steps we can take to change our breathing patterns. When you’re in a high-stress situation, remember this: just breathe. If you want to know how to use breathing techniques to beat stress in everyday situations, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 67 – Bringing Your Best Self to Work with Dr Sarah Goulding

Dr Sarah Goulding discusses how to bring your whole self to work without leaving bits of you behind. Sarah shares her own story of experiencing burnout at her old job and rediscovering her true passion. We also discuss how applying our core strengths to our jobs can mean the difference between burnout and having a sense of fulfilment. Don’t miss out on this episode if you want to learn more about how to be yourself and how to bring joy back into your work!

Episode 65 – Passing the Naughty Monkey Back with Dr Amit Sharma

Dr Amit Sharma joins us to discuss the effects of taking on too many of other people’s ‘naughty monkeys’. We talk about why professionals in high-stress jobs so often take on the rescuer role and how to shift that mindset. Amit and I also discuss the importance of empowering patients to take control of their own health. If you want to know how to avoid being weighed down by too many naughty monkeys, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 64 – What to Do When You’re Out of Fuel with Dr Jess Harvey

Dr Jess Harvey, a GP partner and GB triathlete, talks about what happened to her after running out of fuel and feeling burnt out. She discusses how we often ignore the symptoms and signs for too long and why resting and refuelling is as important as what we're doing in the first place. If you’re feeling burnt out, tune in to this episode to find out how you can plug the holes in your energy bucket!

Episode 63 – How to Survive Even When Times are Tough with Dr Caroline Walker

This episode is part of the COVID-19 Supporting Doctors series, and joining us again is Dr Caroline Walker. She's here to discuss why rest is crucial, especially for people in high-stress jobs. Caroline also shares key strategies that can keep us going through the crisis. The previous year has been tough, so don’t miss this episode to start 2021 better prepared.

Episode 62 – Self-Coaching for Success with Dr Karen Castille, OBE

Dr Karen Castille joins me in this episode to discuss her book on self-coaching. She shares powerful questions to ask yourself which will jumpstart your self-coaching journey. She also talks about the importance of developing this vital skill and crafting powerful life questions. Before we close the show, Karen gives her top tips for self-coaching. Don’t miss this episode if you want to learn how you can find clarity and achieve success through self-coaching!

Episode 61 – The Self Help Book Group on Happiness with Dr Nik Kendrew

In this episode, You Are Not A Frog regular Dr Nik Kendrew joins me to discuss the concept of happiness. We tackle the everlasting question of ‘What is happiness’? We also talk about perfectionism and fear and how these can hinder us from doing the things we want to do. At the end of the show, Nik and I give our top tips to being happier. If you want to know more about living a happy life, then this episode is for you.

Episode 60 – Creating a Workplace that Works with Dr Sonali Kinra

Dr Sonali Kinra joins us to discuss why people leave their jobs and how to prevent it. We talk about the importance of workplace culture and its role in creating an environment that makes people want to stay. We also discuss why you need to seek opportunities that broaden and develop your career. Don’t miss this episode if you want to find out how to keep yourself in a job you love.

Episode 59 – A Social Dilemma? With Dr James Thambyrajah

In this episode, Dr James Thambyrajah joins us to talk about social media’s subtle yet profound effect on our daily lives. We discuss the perils of being unaware of how our online decisions are influenced. James also shares his insights on how we can improve how we stay informed and inform others. Tune in to this episode if you want to learn more about how to go beyond your digital echo chamber.

Episode 55 – The One About Alcohol

Dr Giles P Croft is back to chat with Rachel about his experiences following a revolutionary read he was recommended. You might remember Giles from episode 46, where he talked about how as humans, we naturally default to happiness.

Episode 52 – A year of the frog

The week’s episode is a special one as the Frog celebrates a year of podcasting! It’s been quite a year - including charting in Apple’s Top 100 Business Podcasts in the UK!

Episode 50 – Freeing yourself from the money trap

Joining Rachel in this week’s episode is Dr Tommy Perkins, as well as being a GP Partner, and father, Tommy is one half of Medics Money. Medics Money is an organisation specifically aimed at helping doctors make better decisions with their finances. It’s run by Tommy and Dr Ed Cantelo who is not only a doctor but a qualified accountant.

Episode 49 – The Self Help Book Group No 2 with Nik Kendrew

This week Rachel is joined by You Are Not A Frog regular, Nik Kendrew. Last time Nik joined us, we discussed a book that has helped him in his professional life as a GP, trainer and partner as well as his personal life. Nik’s back this week to talk about another brilliant book and to share what insights and learnings he’s gained from it.

Episode 47 – How to Have a Courageous Conversation

Rachel talks with Beccie D'Cunha about the conversations that we avoid and the conversations we really need to have with our colleagues, teams and managers. They can be described as difficult conversations, but we can redefine them as courageous conversations - because ultimately it takes courage for both parties to listen and be heard.

Episode 46 – Default to happy

Rachel talks with Dr Giles P Croft about his take on how to beat stress and burnout. Giles  is a psychology graduate and former NHS surgeon who stepped aside from clinical practice for a decade to explore a number of career paths, including health informatics, cycling journalism, public speaking and high street retail with his wife.

Episode 45 – Rest. The final frontier

Rachel is joined by Sheela Hobden, Professional Certified Coach, wellbeing expert and fellow Shapes Toolkit facilitator. We talk about why rest isn’t just important for wellbeing, but important for productivity and creativity too. 

Episode 40 – Leading with tough love with Gary Hughes

In this episode, Rachel is joined by Gary Hughes, author of the book Leadership in Practice, blogger, educator and facilitator who is a Practice Manager by day. We chat about how leadership in the COVID-19 crisis has had to adapt, and the different roles that a leader has had to take.

Episode 37 – How to manage conflict during COVID with Jane Gunn

Rachel is thrilled to welcome back Jane Gunn – lawyer, mediator and expert in conflict resolution who has been known as the Corporate Peacemaker. This episode is for you if the thought of addressing a difficult issue with one of your colleagues send you running for the hills…

Episode 20 – A creative solution to stress with Ruth Cocksedge

In this episode, Rachel is joined by Ruth Cocksedge a Practitioner Psychologist who started her career as a mental health nurse. She practices in Cambridge and has a particular interest in EMDR for PTSD and creative writing as a way to improve mental health and wellbeing.

Episode 11 – The magical art of reading sweary books

In this episode, Rachel is joined once again by Dr Liz O’Riordan, the ‘Breast Surgeon with Breast Cancer’, TEDx speaker, author, blogger, triathlete and all round superstar who has been nominated for ‘Woman of the Year’.

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