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Tips for Managing a Type A Personality at Work


Whether it’s you, your boss, or an employee, understand the pros and cons of working with this personality type

Did you know that a pair of cardiologists coined the term “Type A” personality? Back in the 1950s, physicians Meyer Friedman, M.D., and R.H. Rosenman, M.D., came up with the designation to describe some of their most impatient and stressed out patients, according to Psychology Today. (Fun fact: the “A” doesn’t stand for anything.)

“Type A” became a household term, which most people use to mean competitive, perfectionistic, and highly goal-oriented. Interestingly, these are all traits commonly associated with successful doctors. In fact, a 2014 study of more than 1,000 Canadian physicians found that 62 percent of respondents identified with the Type A personality. Furthermore, this finding correlated with feeling it makes one a better physician.

While there are some positive traits associated with the Type A personality, it is also linked to an increased risk of health problems and burnout—which is at all all-time high among doctors in this country. Find out what can be done to accentuate the positives and minimize the negatives of any Type A’s in your practice.

If you’re the Type A person

In the Canadian study mentioned above, doctors who identified with Type A personality traits had statistically higher levels of emotional exhaustion and anxiety than those who did not. Doctor burnout is an epidemic in the U.S., manifesting in disproportionately high rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide, reported the Harvard Health Blog. Approximately 400 physicians commit suicide each year in the U.S.

For more on this topic, see Bringing Awareness to Doctors’ Mental Health Crisis

Key characteristics of the Type A personality—also called Type A Behavior Pattern (TABP)—include a sense of urgency and impatience, according to Psychology Today. Getting frustrated while waiting in line and interrupting people are examples of this trait.

Another more harmful sign of TABP is hostility, which can show up as rudeness, aggressiveness, having a quick temper, and even toxic behavior toward other doctors. While older studies linking Type A personalities and heart disease have been found inconclusive, there does seem to be a link between heart disease and hostility.

“Those with TABP often alienate others, or spend too much time on work and focus too little on relationships, putting them at risk for social isolation and the increased stress that comes with it,” noted the mental health web site Making time for social connection, exercise, and listening to music are among the stress relief tips for Type A’s the site suggests.

While burnout risks must be kept in check for your health’s sake, it’s important to realize that there are positive aspects to being a Type A doctor. “That part of us, the one that strives for perfection in every endeavor, is what makes us excellent surgeons, pathologists, family practice doctors, or radiologists,” wrote ophthalmologist Starla Fitch, M.D., on

If it’s your boss: working for a Type A supervisor

Working for an intense, demanding boss can be difficult. It can lead to unhappy, disengaged staff, and even to employee turnover. However, there are some things you can do to minimize frustration and forge a successful working relationship with a Type A boss, according to Forbes.

First and foremost, make yourself indispensable. No manager wants to cause trouble for highly capable employees who are excellent at their jobs. “The most powerful lever you have to positively influence your management’s behavior is your own strong job performance,” stated the article.

Also, don’t take your boss’s behavior personally. Most of the time, it isn’t about you, it’s simply the way Type A people relate to the world, noted Forbes. If you can, consider giving your boss honest but diplomatic feedback about how their intensity or abruptness makes you feel.

Lastly, “realize that complementary skill sets can create a strong team.” Type A’s can use their authority and directness to resolve conflicts, while non-Type A employees can be a calming influence.

If it’s an employee: managing Type A employees

As we’ve mentioned, Type A employees can be very valuable to your practice. They tend to be ambitious and very productive. On the flip side, however, they can be impatient and overbearing to less-aggressive employees. The key is learning how to leverage your Type A employees’ strengths while maintaining harmony in your office.

Since Type A people are usually very focused and work quickly, they need continuous new challenges or they risk getting bored and inserting themselves into other people’s business. “Keep a running list of projects for Type A staff members,” suggests an article on the QuickBooks Small Business blog. Also, try not to micromanage them.

Because Type A employees struggle with balance, reinforce good habits. Encourage them to leave the office by 6 p.m., for example, and don’t respond to emails sent at midnight. Teach them to delegate tasks to coworkers. Lastly, always show your appreciation for their hard work and commitment.

For more tips on managing employees and running a successful practice, check out our newest eBook, Top Secrets to Hiring, Training, & Retaining an All-Star Medical Staff


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