How to identify employees from hell


Consider these four ways to identify toxic team members and practice manipulators and stop them from damaging your practice and your reputation.

Is there anything spookier than a nightmare employee? (Images courtesy of was a dark and stormy night in veterinary practice …

When you're an honest, trusting person, as most veterinarians are, it's easy for employees to use your trusting nature to take advantage. Being too trusting can damage your practice, your relationships and your reputation. Here are four of the scariest employees from hell I've personally met and advice to keep you from being their next victim.

1. The monstrous manipulator

The nightmare: I lost some excellent employees over the years because I didn't always believe the things they told me about our office manager. I'd listen to the employee and then talk to the manager. What I didn't know was that after I talked with my manager, she would confront and threaten the employee to stay away from me.

She also retaliated by cutting the employee's hours or withholding vacation days, slowly training employees to keep quiet or suffer the consequences. Some would comply and fall into line, and a few found other jobs.

How to wake up: Listen to your employees. Put your people face-to-face when they have issues, especially when it involves a practice leader. This way you avoid being manipulated by the leader and get to the ground level of your team's issues.

2. The invasive inventory manager

The nightmare: When I met one of my drug reps at a continuing education event, she confessed a terrifying story. On a recent visit to my practice, the inventory manager had told the rep she wasn't allowed to talk to me and asked her to leave the practice. The rep told me she thought the order had come directly from me. Of course this was totally untrue, but it taught me a great lesson about the importance of staying in touch with your drug reps.

How to wake up: Meet with your drug reps and suppliers. It may seem easy to allow your employees to handle all the meetings. But if you don't touch base occasionally, you can lose control of your practice and its reputation.


What's worse than one bad employee? How about a mob of them?

3. The disastrous delegator

The nightmare: There were times when I would ask a team member to complete a project. And a few days later, I would find another employee working on the project. 

Some people in positions of power think that it's in their prerogative to hand off unpleasant tasks. This is another way poor employees can avoid work that they're either unqualified for or just too lazy to complete. When leaders overdelegate tasks, the team may learn to distrust the practice leadership.

How to wake up: Follow the projects. When you give one of your employees a project or task, make sure that the person you assigned the project to is actually performing these tasks.

4. The lazy leader

The nightmare: When a team leader is trying to control or manipulate your practice, he or she will work hard to get most of your team to be “friends.” Relationships that get too personal can have a bad effect on your team.

The leader's loyalists will follow along with all of the leader's agendas. The team members who are aware of the leader's manipulations won't choose to be friends, and may be loyal to the practice owner. When you see your team is divided into two camps, it's a sign of a huge problem. A normal veterinary team will occasionally have personality issues, but the vast divide that occurs when you have a toxic team leader in your hospital can be devastating.

How to wake up: Watch for cliques. Keep your eyes and ears open and try to look at practice conflicts from various angles to get to the bottom of your problem. Then remove practice manipulators before they change the trusting and honest environment in your practice.

When you're in the middle of some of these scary situations, it can be tough to see the light of day. Just remember, if you arm yourself and stay aware, the sun will come up again tomorrow-and you can vanquish these monsters for good.

Dr. Julie Cappel is owner of Warren Woods Veterinary Hospital in Warren, Michigan, and served as president of the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association in 2015.


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