I was a toxic employee


A team member confesses to polluting a veterinary practice, and shares what she did to decontaminate herself and the situation.

Three years ago, I accepted a job as a technician with the idea that I'd also serve as the veterinary clinic's client liaison. I was a seasoned technician, 12 years into my career, and I was excited at the opportunity to be a go-between for the busy practice's doctor and clients.

But within the first month it was apparent that there were going to be problems. The clinic was small—just one doctor, three assistants, and three receptionists—and it quickly became clear that we weren't all on the same page. The doctor's way was the right way—indeed, the only way—and I didn't know his ways. Every single thing I did, from placing a catheter to drawing blood to lining a kennel with newspaper, was deemed wrong. But the pay was really good, it was a beautiful practice, and the location was a block away from my house. I was determined to make it work.

Over the next few months, it got worse. As happens in veterinary medicine, a couple patients died. Somehow I was blamed. The other employees talked behind my back and began doubting my abilities as a technician. They'd look at me like I didn't know what I was doing. They thought I was deliberately undermining the doctor and even neglecting patient care. They thought I was this monster technician.

What they didn't understand was that I was having issues with the doctor. I tried to make it work—I made efforts to talk to him one on one and get guidance. I thought I was doing everything right and trying to make amends for what he thought were my mistakes. But I was starting to question my future at the clinic.

I can see now that, certainly, I was part of the problem. I got defensive with my co-workers, and I was dismissive and confrontational with the doctor. I believed I was standing my ground, but that didn't get me anywhere except depressed.

After a few more months, I was put on probation. The situation seemed to stabilize at that point, but I wasn't liking my job much. I was depressed, I didn't want to go to work, and I cried all the time. I actually sought counseling because I realized I needed help from a professional who could guide me through what I was experiencing at this job. It felt out of control.

Eventually, my co-workers started to have a little more compassion. They could tell I was depressed, and they started to treat me differently. I think they saw that I was trying to do a job good and that I wasn't really a monster technician.

Still, I knew by then that I had to leave. After a year, I left the clinic and today I'm the practice manager at a multi-doctor practice. I still have contact with that clinic, but when we communicate, it's on a totally professional level. I think I earned their respect when I realized that it wasn't a healthy environment and I left on my own accord. And the experience taught me some important lessons: To be more patient, to think about what I say before I say it, and to consider that there are two sides to every toxic situation.

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Angela Elia, BS, LVT, CVT, VTS (ECC)
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