Ask Katie: My veterinary hospital has a saboteur!

June 29, 2019
Katie Adams, CVPM
Katie Adams, CVPM

Katie Adams, CVPM, is owner and management consultant at Agrygation Consulting.

What do I do with a veterinary technician undermining her coworkers?

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Q. We have a veterinary technician who intentionally shows other techs the wrong way to do things then complains to management that her co-workers can't do their jobs. How do I address this behavior, and is there a way to coach her into being a team player?

A. It strikes me that there are two things going on here: first, dishonesty, and second, a lack of self-esteem or security in her role in your practice.

Hate conversations like these?

If you procrastinate on starting tough conversations like the one described here, check out practice manager Emily Shiver's favorite tips on tackling tough talks with toxic team members.

Assuming she is technically skilled and coachable, you may want to speak with her as opposed to terminating her immediately. (I prefer to give people an opportunity to improve.) Ask why she feels the need to sabotage her co-workers. List examples of when this has occurred and provide specifics about how that behavior affects the practice (poor morale, lower productivity, diminished trust, etc.). Then tie this behavior to a core value of the practice and discuss how the behavior isn't in alignment with that value. Explain that such behavior is unacceptable and that continuing (read: the very next offense of unacceptable behavior) will lead to her termination.

Discuss behaviors and qualities that a team player would exhibit, so that she understands the specific behavior changes you expect to see. It's not enough for her to stop sabotaging-she needs to become a team player as well.

Katie Adams, CVPM, is owner and management consultant at Agrygation Consulting.