Clinicians are from Venus, Managers are from Mars

4 04 2009

It is encouraging that my failure to post on a regular basis stimulated a request for output from a loyal reader, thanks B. In response I posted yesterday; “Managers are from Mars, Clinicians are from Venus. Discuss.” Sadly, no-one did!

The book, from which the title is culled, discusses the difficulties and differences between the sexes within relationships essentially surmising that they are as beings from separate planets. The complexities of professional relationships within hospitals, which may (or may not) be the basis of my Action Research thesis, I believe mirrors this disparity. Managers and clinicians are as different as beings from another planet; Managers are from Mars and Clinicians are from Venus.


The academic literature is not awash with discourses on this matter. As I work through this I am grateful to various colleagues for their support and notification of individual papers and particular to Ed for unearthing this  article from Amer Kaissi: Manager-Physician Relationships- An Organizational Theory Perspective, The Health Care Manager Volume 24, Number 2, pp. 165-176

Although the paper is written from an American perspective it has a lot to say that is relevant to the almost diametrically opposite cultural stances of British clinicians and managers. The table below summarises some of those differences.

Area   Managers
Central logic   Rationalization, efficiency   Collegial control, expertise
View of work   Make a living   Work is living

Primary loyalty   To the organization   To the patient
Responsibility   Shared   Personal
Tolerance for ambiguity   High   Low
Patient focus   Broad   Narrow
Time frame of action   Middle-long   Short
View of resources   limited   Unlimited

Basis of knowledge   Social and management sciences   Biomedical sciences
Exposure to others while in training   Little   Great
Relationships   Hierarchical   Collegial
Career development   Hierarchical advancement   Achievement
Vocabulary   Cost, benefit, revenue   Quality, patient outcomes

Perhaps, like the book of the title, some of the findings and statements of this paper may appear somewhat obvious. These differences will clearly affect many clinician-manager interactions, even without ladders of inference. The ability to recognise and work effectively with (or despite) such differences requires insight, skill and patience. On both sides.

What do you think? Are managers from Mars and clinicians from Venus? Despite being so different can you see how the two can work effectively together?




3 responses

5 04 2009

Starting them 120,000,000 miles apart even when orbits are aligned doesn’t help.

Learned behaviour is always up for reversal, but stereotyping ingrains prejudices and plants heels firmly in whatever issue is underfoot.

If we are getting the grand view from outer space then the time frame of action, central logic, vocabulary and primary loyalty alone give the clinician the romantic lead leaving the manager as the quartermaster. It doesn’t take us long to adopt role characteristics given enough reinforcement and your disparity is alive and well though a little hypertensive.

The quartermaster needs to be a hero. They need to feel compatibility with the front line of narrow patient focus and to change their identity. In their own view as well as the wider consensus. It’s a no brain-er that Dick Van Dyke didn’t play a manager. Deconstruct their identity and revalue it… bingo.

Simple really so probably already thought of and of no use whatsoever… but it was fun thinking about it.

5 04 2009

Thanks for the comments Steph; insightful and helpful.

I think you have highlighted clearly my negativity about management and perhaps setting them 120,000,000 miles away isn’t the best start.

I’m sure stereotyping actually is more ingrained than many of us realise too. Clearly, a more effective working relationship can only be achieved by recognising our (pre-)conceptions and biases, addressing them and working towards more positive attitudes.

“Simple really so probably already thought of,” you said.

er, no!

Thank you once again.

10 04 2009

thought provoking as always. The original book does not elevate martians over venusians (or vice versa) but calls for empathy and conversation between the two. Beginning to understand one anothers’ mindsets is important. Great to see the dialogue start.

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