Take care of exceptional employees

dvm360dvm360 December 2021
Volume 52

Smart managers know that keeping outstanding workers starts with realizing when you are taking advantage of them.

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didesign / stock.adobe.com

I have always prided myself on being a really good veterinary practice manager. I believe in the work I do. I work hard and enjoy my job. I care about the hospitals I work for. I love the staff that becomes a part of my life. What I’ve realized, especially over the past year, is that there is still so much more for me to learn.

We all have exceptional employees. The ones who come to work in a pinch when you need them. They are dependable, reliable, and trustworthy. You ask them to complete a task and they do it correctly and without much (if any) direction. They come in early or stay late depending on what is needed. They work hard and do an amazing job for your hospital. You have told them how much you appreciate them, and that you are so grateful for them and all they do. You probably have even provided pizza to make sure they eat during their shift.

And then, because you know these employees are going to do everything the way you want it done, you give them more tasks and responsibilities. And they carry these out because that’s who they are. What you’re really telling them is: “I am going to work you to death and provide you with only a verbal thank you, or a small random token of appreciation, instead of providing a work-life balance.”

Eventually, these exceptional employees are going to become resentful. You are giving them all these tasks, while others are rewarded by getting away with minimal effort. Just stop and look at your staff. Whom are you treating unfairly just because you know you can?

I have had some exceptional employees that I treated just like this. I knew how amazing they were and how hard they worked. So I asked more of them because I knew they would give their all. And I absolutely took advantage of that.

It was easier to give my time and attention to those I knew would do a good job rather than focusing on those who needed to do better. I used to see it as a badge of honor. Work hard and do well. I had no idea what I was talking about.

We talk about a shift in veterinary medicine that needs to happen in order to retain good long-term employees and encourage excellence in our entire profession. I think this is a giant step toward that.

Yes, it is easier and less stressful to hand off work to somebody you know is going to handle it. But that cannot continue. Those exceptional employees deserve better from us.

Things to consider doing include the following:

  • Delegating the “extra” tasks to other employees
  • Not expecting the employee to come in every time you call
  • Not calling the employee every time you need them (or making them feel as if they are required to come in when you call)
  • Not bothering the employee on their day off

You also can provide more benefits in the form of:

  • Additional paid time off
  • Monetary bonuses
  • Increased continuing education budgets
  • New scrubs
  • New equipment
  • A flexible schedule
  • Opportunities for work from home (if possible)
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs)
  • Ensuring all staff get a lunch break

By providing appropriate training and equal tasks for everyone, your entire hospital and our entire profession will rise together. I’m not only discussing our credentialed veterinary technicians, assistants, reception, and kennel staff. This also goes for our veterinarians and management teams.

Treat individuals fairly. Take care of those who work so hard for you, so that they will continue to work incredibly hard. Let’s not lose any more staff to burnout or compassion fatigue, leaving our profession angry and frustrated. We need them so much more than they need us.

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