Breed positivity in your veterinary practice


Use these 10 tips from pets to breed positive attitudes and eliminate negativity in your veterinary team.

Most of us have worked with a coworker who tends to come to work gloomy, no matter what the day holds. At my first job as a veterinary assistant, I worked with a newly graduated doctor who started out most days with, "I'm having a bad day, so that's why I might be acting like a jerk." Announcing you know your attitude is rotten is bad, and if you don't intend to change it, that's even worse.

This can be toxic for the workplace, because the bad attitude you display can rub off on others. It's easy to come to work with a big smile on your face, feeling energetic, then shift to counting the minutes until closing when a coworker is rude to you. This is why it's so important to breed positivity among your team members, both in team meetings and during your day-to-day work.

Consider these 10 simple steps to mimic our furry companions and their approach to a more positive, successful life:

1 Shred the stress among coworkers and clients. Be like the Burmese, and be charming, energetic and people-oriented at work to help defuse stressful situations. We all have bad days for one reason or another, but one person's bad day can turn into misery for everyone around them. Although our main focus in the hospital is our furry patients, they will not receive optimal care by a team of disgruntled, frazzled employees. If coworkers—or even clients—come in with a stressed demeanor, try to go out of your way to pick up tasks for them and help them out. Ask if they need to talk. Or in extreme circumstances, with coworkers, maybe it would be better if they left early if they need the time and your team can accommodate one less employee that day. Stressed or burned-out employees won't be very productive in that state, so if talking it out or taking a 10-minute breather doesn't help, allow them to rest their mind at home for a day. It's amazing what just a few hours outside of work can do to clear someone's mind.

2 Throw your team members a bone. Channel the team's inner border collie. These dogs work based on reward systems, and they love to work. To bring up morale and boost positivity—and production—create a reward system for team members. A great option is to create a submission box to collect compliments and kudos from fellow team members. You might offer a dollar amount for each kudo an employee receives. Another option: After a certain amount of submissions, offer a gift card of the team member's choice. There are many approaches to rewarding team members, from bonuses for meeting certain production levels and throwing a staff pizza party for accomplishing a certain goal to handing out small gift cards after a busy work week.

3 Lead a dog's life. Take a page out of the Labrador retriever's guidebook. Exhibit a positive outlook unconditionally, despite your surroundings. Disregard negativity from others and replace it with positivity. If someone's standing around complaining, redirect the conversation with more positive thoughts. Of course, if this continues, the employee may need to talk to someone and work on their approach to the day. If you're able to stay upbeat and block out the other person's frustrations and grievances, you'll be amazed how much it improves your day.

4 Strike a pose. Pretend you are the beautiful Abyssinian. Keep your posture upright and confident. Posture can do wonders for self-assurance and improve your day. Come in well rested and energetic and stay that way by keeping your back straight while walking or sitting. Use lumbar support if you don't sit in a specific ergonomically designed chair. When sitting, align your back with the back of the chair, and don't let your feet dangle if they don't reach the floor. Also, make sure your neck, back and heels are always aligned. A strong posture equals greater confidence and fewer headaches, back pains and fatigue.

5 Treat yourself like the cat's pajamas. Similar to our furry poodle companions, we need regular grooming and a special dose of attention and self-care. Make sure to give yourself a treat every morning and evening around your workday. Waking up and enjoying a cup of coffee and your favorite show or taking a bubble bath and reading a book in the evenings can do wonders for your mental state. It gives you a positive way to start the day and something fun to look forward to, even on the toughest of days. You will feel more rejuvenated when you return to work and find it much easier to be a happy-go-lucky team member all day.

6 Treasure all nine lives. Mimic the ocicat and maintain a strong, muscular body and high activity level. Physical health contributes to your emotional health and overall outlook. Dealing with medical issues can be challenging when you have to be on your "A" game 40 hours a week. Tackle any ailments or chronic pain, and be sure to fit in physical activity and exercise into your schedule whenever possible. Physical ailments can be exhausting and make it very difficult to function at work. If you manage to push through your workday without dealing with your health, then your home life is sure to suffer instead.

7 Remember that curiosity won't kill the cat. Imitate the Turkish angora: Be curious and inquisitive about the world around you. Explore and open yourself to new environments and different kinds of people. Those who tend to travel more and step outside of their circle of friends and places tend to be more tolerant and positive around those who are different. We tend to work with a diverse set of people with a common interest in improving the lives of animals. Remember that you are a team and your love for animals and passion for your career is most important, and try to put aside petty differences and make an attempt to better understand coworkers from their point of view.

8 Teach an old dog new tricks. Tap into your inner bearded collie. These dogs are hard workers, and they're enthusiastic, exuberant and curious. They find passion in what they do, and they're eager to learn new commands and kinds of work. Explore an area of work you know little about and try to improve your knowledge base. In this process, you're likely to stumble onto a part of your job that ignites your inner passion for your career. Being passionate about your job makes you a more enthusiastic team member, which benefits the entire practice.

9 Recognize your whole team—even the underdogs. Are you part Irish setter? If so, you may be very friendly and accepting around others. You are puppy-like, finding the good in everyone. It's important to remember that every person at work has a place to shine, and we all contribute our talents to the team to make the veterinary practice run. Remind coworkers that they're valued and commend them for doing a great job. Even if you dread working with a team member or two, you can probably channel that negativity elsewhere by realizing the aspects of work they excel at and how they really help your group as a team. Take their weaknesses and try to lend a hand and some additional training instead of griping or putting them down.

10 Be a cool cat. Take a tip from the American wirehair: Change is good. These felines are even-tempered and go with the flow—they accept and embrace change. Change is inevitable at any job throughout the weeks, months and years. Some change will be more difficult than others, like new hours or schedule adjustments. Try to remember that no position is 100 percent perfect until perhaps you're the boss—and then it's just terribly exhausting and stressful. Take a moment to write down all the positives that still exist in your job that you may not be able to find elsewhere when you're feeling disheartened. If you truly reach a point where the cons outweigh the pros, maybe this is no longer the job for you, which is OK. We all eventually have to move on. It's much better to move on than stay in a job where your negativity and disgruntled attitude brings the rest of the team down.

Battling toxicity in the workplace can be challenging, but a good attitude will get you far and set a tone for the rest of the team. Focus on ways you can create a positive environment, and you may find it rubs off on others. A happy workplace lends itself to more content team members and a more productive team.

Oriana Scislowicz, BS, LVT, VDT, is a technician in Richmond, Va.

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