Stop hiring 'multitaskers'
You think you can do lots of things at once (or your boss thinks you can). But is multitasking in veterinary practice always the right choice? And is hiring people who think they can do five things at once really helping you in the long run?
You THINK you've got this many arms. You do not. You are not an octopus or, like, a jellyfish. Maybe someday ... they're doing wonders with genetics ... (Shutterstock.com)Across America, veterinary professionals, far and wide, are multitasking. Let's check in and see how they're doing.
Uma Cat and Dog Hospital
Beep, beep, beep, whoosh. Phone ring. Beep, beep, beep, whoosh. Phone ring. Beep, beep, beep, whoosh. Phone ring.
“Carolyn, would you mind getting the phone? That was the third ring.”
“You mean while I'm monitoring this patient under anesthesia?”
“Yes, would you mind?”
“You want me to multitask?”
Blair County Pet Health Center
“While that's printing, can you walk this dog for me?”
“But the print job is almost finished … ”
“I know, but he hasn't been walked and I'm on the phone with software support.”
“You know, if I leave now, the printer will jam and then I'll have to start the whole thing over … ”
“It'll be fine. Just multitask.”
Wazooma Cat Practice
“Giving a slow dose of that medication, I see.”
“Hey, in between pushes, would you fill up more flushes? We're out.”
“But I wanted to … ”
“You'll be right here watching the whole time. It's called multitasking. It's what we do around here. Get used to it.”
Have you ever taken stock of your state of mind while in the process of multitasking? To me, it feels like vomiting up a moderate amount of anxiety, nerve endings and panic at a bunch of work that's quickly closing in. You know what I think about when I think about multitasking? Remember that Bugs Bunny cartoon when Bugs is drawing Daffy Duck in various scenes and then pens in a black curtain that won't stop falling on top of Daffy's head? Finally, Daffy loses it and lashes out at the curtain from all directions, leaving it in tatters. To me, that's multitasking.
I think multitasking's the worst ...
I'm doing a mental inventory of the most successful people in my life, the ones with whom I work and went to school, and I'm coming up with a long list of people who focus on one thing, think it through, give it their full attention and complete it before moving on to the next task.
I don't think multitasking equals success. I think it equals stress.
As it turns out, research suggests that multitasking isn't as virtuous a quality in applicants as we tend to believe. Surprisingly (or not):
• Multitasking slows you down. People who flit between one job and another take longer to complete the two jobs than their counterparts who complete one before starting the next.
• Multitaskers are 40 percent less productive.
• Multitaskers have higher levels of stress.
• Multitaskers remember fewer details of the jobs they're working on.
• Multitaskers tend to overeat. (It's true! Interruptions prevent our brains from processing the fact that we've eaten, so we feel hungry and gobble throughout our multitasking day.)
• Multitaskers score lower on performance tests.
• Multitaskers aren't as creative while working.
Multitasking mea culpa
I'm sorry for the years I pushed my team and myself to multitask. I realize it now for what it was-throwing a bunch of energy and activity at broken systems and a disorganized business model. If I had it to do all over again, I'd flip the “Closed” sign around on the hospital's front window, turn off the phones and sit down with my team to work out a better way to get the work done.
Editor's note: Are you inspired to rethink your veterinary practice's dedication to the applicant who “must be able to multitask”? Tell us how in a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bash Halow, CVPM, LVT, is a partner with Halow Tassava Consulting, a frequent speaker at the Fetch veterinary conferences and a regular contributor to dvm360.com and Firstline magazine.