Some of you may have read my previous article on “sharing some criticism” in which I was the recipient of the criticism.  Today I want to share a recent experience where I was the deliverer of the criticism – an experience in which the receiver has seemingly been unable to accept my feedback in the manner in which it was intended.

Names have been omitted to protect the identities of some sensitive parties involved.

I have been liaising with a fellow professional regarding a patient. During the process I have had to speak with her receptionist on several occasions.  In short, this has not been a pleasant experience, the specific details of which will be spared in this short article.

As a person who believes that criticism is an opportunity for growth and development, I therefore feel I have a responsibility to deliver my feedback as and when appropriate. Moving from this value system, I informed my fellow professional of my experience in a carefully scripted text aimed towards constructive communication.  In so doing, I made the suggestion that it might be something she wants to take a look at because, as I’m sure you will agree, a receptionist provides the initial and often lasting impression in any business environment. Sadly, it was not received as intended and I was essentially told to mind my own business. To add salt to the wound, a little insult was thrown into the mix when it was suggested by my colleague that I rather focus my attention on my own practice, where according to her, I clearly have more free time than she does!  Unnecessary, unprofessional and intended only to be hurtful, don’t you think?

Anyway, I’m OK with the insult, as I understand where it is coming from: it is the reaction of a person who is feeling threatened and fragile.  I’m also OK with her inability to receive my criticism in the way in which I intended it… I know I did what I thought was best for my colleague and that her failure to see it as an opportunity and more as an attack has got nothing to do with me.  What I am not OK with is that unfortunately my colleague has seemingly been unable to separate this personal issue from the professional concern regarding the patient’s care – care for which we are both responsible.  To this end, my last 3 e-mails have gone unanswered (she doesn’t take phone calls) and the patient has not been contacted as per my request to her receptionist several days ago.  What this means is that I cannot progress with my responsibilities to the patient, which, at the end of the day, leaves her disadvantaged.  This is a huge dilemma for me and I have to say, a challenge that I have never before been faced with in my 30+ years of practice.

Alas, I will work out the dilemma one way or another in my determination that the patient gets the best of my professional service, which is what she deserves.  When it comes to the responsibility of providing people with constructive criticism, I will continue to strive ahead… how it is received, I can do nothing about.  I just want to urge you to consider how you give and receive criticism, and to try to make the most of the opportunities that this kind of feedback provides you, whether it be at work or at home.

Take care everyone.

Your partner in mental health at work,


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