Don’t Be That Guy, or This Guy

February 5, 2016

In radiology, who is That Guy?

You’ve encountered these guys, and likely as not, heard about plenty of others.

The first time I recall hearing about That Guy was in the movie “PCU” (nicknamed “the Animal House of the 90s,” and well worth a viewing if you missed it). A blundering character is confronted by a savvier one for poor choice of wardrobe: “You're wearing the shirt of the band you're going to see? Don't be that guy.”

Outside of that particular flick, That Guy is protean, but has recurrent characteristics: He’s got a foible (or several) that others quickly and/or easily recognize. Indeed, everyone sees it but him; if he is indeed aware of it, he does a wonderful job of pretending otherwise. And it’s blatant enough that it can define him, even make him a caricature.

In radiology, That Guy can be the rad who never commits to a diagnosis (or ruling one out). He can be the one who’s always got a complaint-he does more work than everyone else, his subspecialty is insufficiently appreciated/compensated, he gets stuck with the worst holiday coverage, etc. Or the one with an endless list of proposed rule-changes (which, conveniently, would all rebound to his benefit). You’ve probably met a That Guy or two with knacks for showing up late, leaving early, taking breaks, etc. when he would have been needed, such that others are always having to cover for him.

In a lot of ways, This Guy is the polar opposite of That Guy. You’ve probably only blatantly seen This Guy on TV or the big screen, since it’s hard to actually pull the This Guy maneuver if you have a shred of humility. I can’t cite a classic pop culture example, but it’s almost always a swaggering, if not obnoxiously, macho thing, like “Guess who just bench-pressed 300-” pause to raise arms bilaterally to point at own head “-THIS guy!”

So, again, it’s rare to encounter someone in our field who’s going to be that much of a This Guy posterchild, but if you don’t demand the actual verbiage and trademark gesture, you’ll probably be able to think of a few This Guys who have crossed your professional path, too. Unlike That Guy, This Guy is fully aware of his status (awesome; just ask him!), and indeed wants everyone else to be, too.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"45580","attributes":{"alt":"radiology guy","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_9064562103027","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"5226","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 160px; width: 200px; float: right;","title":"©subarashii21/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Occasionally, This Guy is right-he really is “all that,” and in these fortunately rare circumstances, his self-celebration can be especially irritating. He might just be the one who can blaze through an interventional procedure in half the time other mere mortals would, yet capable of near-miraculous results on a routine basis. He might have a diagnostic error-rate of zero, whether or not coupled with a willingness to point out everyone else’s mistakes.

Happily for the sanity of the rest of us, a typical This Guy is far less extraordinary than his chest-thumping would imply. Either because he’s really no better at what he’s doing than anyone else around him, or because he’s high-fiving himself for stuff so mundane (on the order of shoelace-tying or thumb-wrestling) that one feels embarrassment just for being a witness to the self-celebration. Which isn’t to take away from the other reasons for avoiding This Guy; frequent proximity tends to beget a constant state of competition and/or desire to take him down a few pegs.

So, how does one avoid becoming This Guy or That Guy? I’m not sure there’s a foolproof strategy other than engaging in routine self-reflection, and seeking feedback from friends and colleagues. One might cloak oneself in a warm, comfy blanket of mediocrity, if content to be an unmemorable Just Some Guy for the duration. Or strive a bit more to be a Good Guy in everyone’s book, maybe even a Helluva Guy if one hopes to play the political game and attain some sort of office. And then there’s Gals…but as a guy myself I would not claim to have sufficient insight to publically opine on such a subject.