Ask Emily: Overstepping boundaries

February 11, 2020

How to address young employees who aren’t staying in their lane.

The team at dvm360.com and Firstline magazine asked Emily Shiver, a certified veterinary practice manager and certified compassion fatigue professional) to answer your questions about life in practice for managers, technicians, client service representatives and other team members. Got a question for her? Email us at firstline@mmhgroup.com.

Q. Hey, we’ve all been there—young, fearless and just landed our dream veterinary job. There is nothing I like better than a confident youngster. I do my best to take all the eagerness and fearlessness and channel it in the right direction. But even with my best efforts, ambitious new hires sometimes test their boundaries. What is the best way to tackle this issue?

A. Here are some useful tips:

  • At hire, give the new team member an up-to-date job description and start them with your preferred style of training. Phase training is most successful for me.
  • If you have a concern, address it immediately.
  • Teach them to “stay in their box.” You can say something like this: “I am so excited to have you on the team, and I know you have what it takes to be successful. Your eagerness is contagious. Let’s review what you have learned up to this point. Right now we are laying the foundation to make you a solid part of the team and providing you with the tools you need to succeed. It is vital you follow this step-by-step process.”
  • Disciplinary order goes as follows—no exceptions: discussion, warning/probation, then termination.
  • Let the employee know that the handbook clearly defines the steps of disciplinary action. When I have my first disciplinary discussion, I make sure to explain that, “I am excited about the improvement you will make moving forward. Our next discussion will be much different if there’s no improvement in your performance.”
  • Try pairing them up with a senior team member for consistent coaching (for a minimum of 30 days, although 90 days is preferable).
  • Keep them challenged by getting them involved in different projects.

"Reforming" these youngsters is not for the faint of heart. It takes grit, determination and a firm but understanding hand. Often, the best team members are the ones who push the boundaries and, frankly, they are often the ones who will become my next managers. But when young employees are just getting started at your practice, keep them in check and keep them challenged, and it should be smooth sailing.

Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, is practice manager at Cleveland Heights Animal Hospital in Lakeland, Florida.