Managers: Avoid the clique contagion


The contagion: Cliques. These groups of employees seem to band together for their common goodnot to be confused with the common good of the veterinary practice.

The symptoms 

Members of the clique always go out to lunch together.

They do everything possible to only work with each other.

They only share vital practice information with team members they wish to succeed.

How it spreads 

Their common goals can vary but may include:

Eliminating an employee they don't like or they deem “in the way” of their advancement.

Evolving practice policy to better suit what they feel is appropriate, or what might make their experience more enjoyable.

Changing or boosting the direct benefits the practice offers. 

Consider this example. A few years back, we had a policy that prohibited any visible body piercing other than the ear. We were aware that two employees desperately wanted to have their noses pierced. Two months after a fairly naive, but likable, employee joined our practice, the two employees (who openly disliked the new team member), invited the new team member to a shopping trip. They encouraged her to get her nose pierced. She hadn't thoroughly read our employee manual and happily agreed. Through secondhand intel, I learned that their hope was that we liked the new girl so much that we'd change our policy rather than force her to take out the piercing. While we may have been willing to review the policy based on a straightforward request, this approach represented an employee mindset we didn't want to reward, and we held fast to the policy.

Prevention and treatment

The good news is that you can develop strategies to work with the right employees. For example, we created a strategic plan that included creating staff schedules that avoided the pairing of members of the “cliques,” assigned associate and staff pairings that forced doctors to use our technicians and assistants equally without favor and systematically eliminated the problem team members. By identifying leaders, we saved a few followers who were on the path of insubordination. 

Kyle Palmer, CVT, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a practice manager at Silver Creek Animal Clinic in Silverton, Oregon.

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