How To Deal With Your Colleagues In A Private Hospita

How To Deal With Your Colleagues In A Private Hospital

A young doctor asked me to write on “ How to deal with jealousy in Private practice”. I told him that it would be a difficult topic to write on but that I will try. 

When I first started at Mahkota Medical Centre, I was lucky. This was a brand new hospital and I did not have much interaction with senior colleagues. Most of us were of the same age and we were young. However, I still had to meet and talk to other senior colleagues in other hospitals. I had the some difficulty in balancing between showing my great respect to the work of my senior colleagues and  still do things differently from what they were doing. This meant that I had to establish my name but not step on their toes while doing  it. This was difficult. I told myself that in order to distinguish myself from my senior colleagues in town, I had to bring in new technologies, which were not available in Melaka. In that way, I would not not be competing with them in their turf. This, I did by introducing laparoscopic surgery and IVF, services which were not available in Melaka, at that time. Even when I started new things in my field, I still got the cold shoulder from my senior colleagues as I was seen as somehow “stealing” their patients. Were my colleagues jealous of me? I will not know. Was I jealous of my colleagues? Perhaps! I was envious of them as they were more established and busy at their work while I sat around waiting for patients. I was dreaming of the days when I would  be like them, busy with my work. As time passed and with hard work, my clinic got busy. Now, after many years of practice I am indeed busy. 

During this busy time, do I look at my junior colleagues and feel jealous of them when they are busier than I am? Perhaps: sometimes.  I am only human. My former boss gave me  this advice before I left for private practice. “Just be happy with what you have. Don’t look at your busier colleagues and be envious”.  Although one should be content with what one has, this can be very difficult when your colleagues are busier than you.

How do we know whether others are jealous or envious of us? Perhaps it is the whispers you hear from friendly colleagues who tell you about gossip they have heard about you.  Perhaps you accidentally hear someone talking about you behind your back. Perhaps the management receives complaints from your colleagues,  about your work.  Sometimes,  even your patients tell you about what your colleagues have said about you but most of all, you can feel the coldness and sense of dislike or jealously when you talk to them. 

What can you do about this? The first thing you can do is NOT to repeat what your colleagues are doing. If you did that, you would merely be aggravating the situation. It is better to just lie low and let the gossips pass.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

 My advice to young doctors going into private practice regarding your relationship with your senior colleagues?

  1. Give due respect to your senior colleagues. Call them by their name with the appropriate salutations and smile at them even if they look at you coldly.
  2. Ask them for help when you have problems. This will bring them closer to you and show that you have some respect for their work and seniority.
  3. Engage them at social gatherings even if they appear distant. Make yourself available at doctors lounge, canteens and so on. Ask them for advice and support.
  4. Don’t talk negative about your colleagues even if their work may seem outdated to you. Talking bad of your colleague will ultimately reflect badly on yourself. 
  5. If you happen to overtake them in volume and quality of work, don’t appear arrogant. Sometimes, being quiet may also appear as arrogance. I am guilty of this. Senior colleagues who have lost the battle to you by losing their patients, will be bitter but your warmth will console them that  it is now time to share patients with their younger colleagues.
  6. At official meetings, acknowledge them and greet them appropriately and thank them for their guidance
  7. When you organize talks or scientific meetings, invite them to chair or give an introduction
  8. Giving them small gifts on annual festive occasions or just wish hem well. No not overdo with gifts as it may be seen negatively


I would like to thank

My wife Sarojini for editing this article

Dr. Gunasegaran for reading through this article and giving good suggestions for its improvement.


Picture of Dr. Selva

Dr. Selva

Dr S. Selva (Sevellaraja Supermaniam) is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and a subspecialist in Reproductive Medicine at a private hospital in Melaka, Malaysia. He heads the O&G unit and the IVF Centre at the hospital.

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