Ending team animosity at your veterinary practice


When opposite personalities collide, it can be difficult to see eye-to-eye. Look for fresh perspective on coworkers' differences to achieve harmony in your workplace.

Dawn* and I didn't always work well together. When I started work at the veterinary office, not only was I nervous about moving in on this already close-knit group of comrades, but Dawn in particular had an aggressive nature I wasn't used to. While she was outspoken, I'm an introvert. I take the reserved, passive approach, and she could be downright bossy. I resolved to focus on my work in the treatment area, and as long as she stayed at the reception desk, surely we wouldn't have a face-off.

Just when I got the knack for dodging Dawn, there was a shift in our office structure. One of the technicians quit abruptly and her position had to be filled. Dawn, the most flexible and seasoned employee, was obviously best suited for the job. I realized I'd soon be working alongside my nemesis. I felt sick. All I could think of were negative possibilities.

Determined not to let this situation destroy my love for working with animals, I tried to keep it professional and stay detached from Dawn and her personal attacks. At first, it was awful. She set the thermostat to an arctic chill and turned all the fans on high. I turned the air conditioning back down and shut the fans off when she wasn't looking. I got frustrated when she left empty shelves before my shift, and she hated the way I tied the trash liners so tightly around the trashcan rim. Dawn had a flair for delegation; I didn't want to follow her orders. I'd balk at her attempts to recruit my help—if she needed it, all she had to do was ask. This petty squabbling went back and forth for a long while.

Sadly, last winter we lost a loyal regular boarding dog. Dawn created and hand painted a clay paw print for his owner to memorialize him. The grieving client was overwhelmed with gratitude at the thoughtful gesture. We decided to offer this for all euthanasias; Dawn took on the responsibility of crafting each paw print. One day I remember watching her struggle to decide which color would be best for a certain print. It was important to her that it was special.

Facing this tender side of Dawn, I realized we were both there for the same reasons. We loved our jobs and wanted to be there for pets and their people. As I learned to accept our differences, she learned to respect my boundaries. We still have the occasional run-in, but now we've developed a tolerance and a deeper respect for each other.

So, dig deeper to find ways to relate to people who aren't like you. We're all made differently; sometimes our differences are extreme, but that's OK. We can each be ourselves and still be exactly what this world needs.

*Name has been changed

Suzy Quick is a veterinary assistant at Airport Veterinary Clinic in Terre Haute, Ind. She regularly blogs as SuzyQ on the dvm360 community.

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