A.This is a difficult situation because the office manager/wife has an indirect power, which doesn’t fit neatly on an organizational chart. However, as with all conflicts, it’s always best to try to address it directly with the person causing the problem rather than going to a third party (your boss). We don’t know if she’s being rude because A) She’s insecure since she’s only “the wife” in an office of “real professionals”; B) She feels superior to everyone else because she is the wife, and perhaps a professional in her own right; C) She’s unaware she’s coming across as rude; or D) She’s just a mean, bossy person. If D is the reason, you’ll need to speak to your boss, accept it, or move on. But I encourage you to consider A, B & C first…even if you really believe it’s D. If she’s insecure, try to build up her sense of security by including her in office chitchat and social events that don’t include the doctor (e.g., lunch or shopping). If she feels less isolated, she may stop trying to overcome her insecurity through rudeness.
If the cause of her behavior is either B or C, you’ll need to call her on it directly. Give her clear, specific, and non-judgmental feedback about what she is doing or saying and the impact on you or the patients. Don’t speak for the rest of the staff or you’ll set up an “us against you” dynamic which will only make her defensive. Whether she’s acting this way because she feels superior or is unaware, talk to her about it as if she is unaware. That will help her save face and handle it more gracefully. Tell her (privately) when she comes on too strong. Be specific, immediate, and gentle. For example, “Mabel, I noticed that Mrs. Smith seemed hurt when you told her to sit down and shut up just now. I’m sure you didn’t intend to be rude, but I knew you’d want to know since you care so much about our patients.” Or, “Mabel, you hurt my feelings just now when you called me stupid in front of a patient. It’s been a stressful day for all of us and I’m sure you didn’t mean it, but I thought I should tell you since I know you’re not an insensitive person.” If her behavior doesn’t change, you can try talking to the doctor. Or better yet, come up with a “Patient Satisfaction Survey” to solicit anonymous feedback on all office functions, including staff courtesy. Objective data from paying customers is the best way to get the attention of those in charge.