How I survived a demanding boss


Have an awful boss at your veterinary practice? Learn how Rachael Simmons dealt with hers.

There's always one clinic in town nobody wants to work for. And when I needed a job, that was the first clinic I talked to. Call me crazy, but I was confident I could demystify the myth, so to speak. Plus it was close to my house.

It just couldn't be as bad as all that, could it?

When I first met my boss, he didn't seem to be the bad guy everyone made him out to be. He knew I was a single mom and even though he made me think he didn't need the help—which he did—he told me I needed to work since I had a child to care for. He offered to hire me on for a couple of weeks. After a couple of months, he asked if I planned to stick around.

Now, working for the "worst clinic in town" will teach you some things about your boss. And I learned a few lessons that shaped how I dealt with him. The most important lesson: don't argue. Even if I didn't agree with him, I didn't argue. I watched others employees argue and results were disastrous. I could see the No. 1 reason he fired team members right in front of me.

If I did have a difference of opinion, I learned that a low-key sell was the best. You needed to gather up as much information as possible and give him plenty of time to think about it.

For someone who so easily fired people, he also had high expectations for employees to be at work all the time. One of his most memorable lines to me was "If you break your leg today, I expect you to be at work tomorrow." Yes—he was serious. When we went through a spell of being shorthanded (yet again), I was continually late to pick up my child from day care, which was an extra charge. I told him I needed to leave on time from work to pick up my son because of the cost. His response: The overtime he paid me more than paid for my day care bill.

Take a deep breath. Don't argue.

Things came to a head when I told him I was going to quit unless he hired more help. I didn't get confrontational or crabby. I just laid it out for him. And because of how I handled it, he got more help, and I earned a little more respect.

He had other quirks too, but I consoled myself with the fact that I could work with him. And the weekend I was explaining this to our associate, my boss made a surprise visit to the clinic and introduced me to the man who was buying the practice and would become my new boss in a month.

Life has a way of working out. That new boss was the best boss I ever worked for. But surviving my demanding boss made my job that much easier later. It gave me a better appreciation for not letting the little things get to me.

Rachael Simmons is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and head receptionist at Veterinary Surgical Specialists in Spokane, Wash.

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