Practice managers: Are you giving feedback or fluff?

August 29, 2016
Sarah Mouton Dowdy
Sarah Mouton Dowdy

Sarah Mouton Dowdy, a former associate content specialist for, is a freelance writer and editor in Kansas City, Missouri.

CVC Speaker Andy Roark says theres a difference between praise and positive feedback, and it could make all the difference in your veterinary practice.

Getty ImagesAndy Roark, DVM, MS, kicked off a recent CVC “Improv Learning” session by playing the part of a practice manager in the middle of praising his technician (played by Meghan Pierson): “Meg, you're so great. I really appreciate you. Thanks for all you do.”

Sure, Meg may now feel warm and fuzzy, but does she really know what it is she did right so she can do it again? Not quite.

Roark says positive reinforcement is far more constructive than praise in the workplace. Here's what it looks like: “Meg, can I talk to you about that last appointment? When you jump in and fill in the medical records like that, it makes my job so much easier and I'm able to get a lot more done in a short amount of time. Can you keep doing this going forward?”

See the difference? Meg knows exactly what she did right and why it was helpful and is highly likely to repeat the behavior in the future. If you can recognize (and communicate) the good things your coworkers do, you will have an energized and motivated staff that keeps doing what you want, says Roark. 

What about bad behaviors?

This feedback model works for bad behaviors you want to eliminate too. Andy used tardiness as an example: “Meg, when you're late, it makes the morning chaotic, and we can't seem to recover. Can you make sure it doesn't happen again?” Much like the positive example above, a specific behavior and consequence have been identified which makes change much more likely.

If the negative behavior persists, be sure to elevate the conversation beyond the tardiness problem, as that's no longer the core issue. Here's what it should look like instead: “Meg, we've talked about your tardiness several times, and each time you promised that it wouldn't happen again. Because nothing has changed, I feel disrespected and I'm starting to question both your commitment to the practice and your honesty, in general.” Make sure you're having the right conversation.