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Ask Shawn: Handling a racist client in veterinary practice
You can show offensive veterinary clients the door.
One of our clients made some extremely racist remarks in the course of our conversation recently. Not only do I disagree with his views, but I have black children and grandchildren through adoption. I found his remarks highly offensive, and now I don't know how to handle his future visits. Do I confront him and tell him where I stand or avoid him and let other team members wait on him?—RESISTING RACISM
Shawn McVey, MA, MSW
DEAR RACISM RESISTER:
Ouch! Can you believe that it's 2012 and we still have to deal with ignorance of this nature? My gut answer is to kick the client out of your practice. Who needs people like that around? Bad energy, bad karma, and likely not nice to many people at all! If this person is a frequent client, I would pull him aside after treating his pet and let him know how his behavior affected you. You may also bring this issue to your management team.
Your practice owner or manager should warn him that if he makes future comments, your team won't be able to work with him, because his remarks are offensive. Further, the manager should explain that your hospital's core values aren't negotiable, and your manager isn't comfortable exposing team members to potential bigotry. If your manager shares those values with the client and he's contrite and understanding, you can move on and help him with his pets. If not, the manager should tell him he needs to find a different practice. Either he comes around or out he goes. I'm proud of your team in advance for not tolerating bigotry.
Shawn McVey, MA, MSW, is a member of the Firstline and Veterinary Economics editorial advisory boards and is CEO of McVey Management Solutions in Chicago. For videos and articles containing more of McVey's tips and tricks on issues relating to veterinary personnel management, conflict, and communication, visit dvm360.com/mcvey.