Kick team conflict in your veterinary practice


Find out common sources of angst and learn strategies to kick conflict to the curb at your practice.

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Team members say staff members gossiping about coworkers and their coworkers not fulfilling job duties are the most damaging sources of workplace conflict, according to the 2013 Firstline Veterinary Team Trends Study. Team members being rude to colleagues also ranked high.

The largest source of conflict between veterinarians and other staff members is often miscommunication, says Ciera Miller, CVT, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and technician at Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pa. "It is important for all team members to follow orders to properly treat patients. If team members have concerns, they must approach the veterinarian respectfully to come to an understanding without causing conflict," she says. "Likewise, the veterinarians must clearly and respectfully communicate with team members. The entire team should have at least monthly meetings where they can address and resolve conflicts."

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Reaching out

Marianne Mallonee, CVPM, is a Firstline board member and hospital administrator and part owner of Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Wheat Ridge, Colo.

With 118 team members at her practice, Mallonee says her team is a tough bunch that outs the personality conflicts pretty quickly: "The biggest challenge we have when it comes to conflict is not understanding what team members are supposed to be doing, including challenges associated with a certain job or a certain shift."

In a smaller practice, these challenges might emerge as conflicts between receptionists and technicians or front or back office team members. "It's important to have a true understanding of what others are dealing with on a daily basis," Mallonee says.

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Walking in their shoes

Another issue is often a difference in work ethic--or perceived work ethic. Mallonee says one step her practice has used to help overcome misconceptions is cross-training to give team members a real-life understanding of different positions. She also says it's important to provide opportunities to sit down and talk about different jobs at your practice and their responsibilities.

"One of our emergency supervisors who only used to work the late shifts has been working some day shifts recently," Mallonee says. "She told me the experience was so valuable to understand the differences in a position between the day and night shifts."

And they extend the cross-training idea to cover bosses, too, with their own version of TV's Undercover Boss. While they obviously can't operate in secret, it gives owners and managers a chance to suit up as different roles, such as receptionists.

"We spend time with team members to truly get that 'Oh my gosh, wow, I can't believe you do this' and 'That's so impressive' bird's-eye view of what people do. And it makes an absolutely huge difference to have that real-life understanding of what's going on," Mallonee says.

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