Data report: Inaction is ruining your veterinary practice

September 24, 2019

When a workplace issue arises but theres no such thing as a human resources department in your veterinary clinic, things can get hairy. Heres what your veterinary colleagues think.

In difficult workplace situations, veterinary practice owners will more often than not choose not to act at all. According to Tracy Sheffield, BS, LVT, CVPM, this is due to a lack of understanding of the true costs of an unmanaged work environment.

“Inaction can be the worst response when faced with a workplace issue,” she says in her latest research proceedings on work environment. “Inaction can frustrate associates to the point that they leave a practice where they enjoyed practicing quality medicine but found the work environment too toxic to tolerate any longer.”

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For her research, Sheffield sent out a nine-question, anonymous survey, to which 205 veterinarians, of which 191 completed. The results? “Adopting and enforcing behavior expectations for all staff members and creating a civil, professional, and safe work environment improves the bottom line in any business setting,” she says in the report.

Illustration by Nicholette Haigler

And the rest of the results? Let's get into it.

Medical experiences

Overall, she learned that veterinarians support their colleagues, even through complex or unusual cases. “This part of the workplace environment is where veterinary medicine really gets it right,” she says in her report.

Management experiences

You may have heard-or thought-this one before. “It would appear that veterinarians want to be veterinarians, not business or human resource managers,” Sheffield states in her report. When issues were brought to the attention of managers, no action was taken over 50% of the time. “Inaction itself takes varying forms,” she explains, “from listening to complaints and simply not doing anything, to outright hostility.”

Respect and professional courtesy 

Here, just as with any facet of the profession, Sheffield notes that there's room for improvement. “Professional courtesy and respect are important components of the workplace environment,” she says in the report.

Issues in work environment

Work environment is a big issue in the veterinary world, and the numbers back that up. “The failure of management to create a positive, productive work environment leads associates to consider leaving their position for this reason alone,” Sheffield states.

The results on colleague's thoughts and feelings about workplace environment speak for themselves, and the answer is clear. “The costs to a veterinary practice from failure to manage the work environment are steep,” Sheffield concludes. “Top-tier performance can only occur when the work environment is safe and civil.”

Editor's note: This data is excerpted from a longer article, "Work Environment: The Overlooked Profit Center" by the author in AAEP Proceedings 2018.