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Talking like cats and dogs
When your team speaks, it might sound like a cacophony of meows and barks. Even if you're the lone feline-esque voice, you can still communicate. Just identify your verbal tendencies-as well as those of your co-workers-and strive to get along with the rest of the pack.
Pets aren't the only ones barking and howling for attention at your veterinary practice. If you think about it, you and your team members' conversation tactics often mimic the behaviors of the patients you care for—although you're decidedly more wordy. Here are four animalistic communication styles. Take a look to see which best describes you. (Better yet, test yourself on dvm360.com by searching for "communication quiz.") Then get to work learning when to howl and when to purr.
Growl to get your way
Why you deserve a treat: If you classify yourself as this type of communicator—and according to a recent dvm360.com survey, 24 percent of you do—you're not afraid to strongly voice your opinion. This serves you well in large-group settings. For instance, when the practice owner asks a question of the team in a staff meeting, you're willing to answer and get the discussion started. As a result, your co-workers might come to view you as a leader. This could end up netting you additional responsibilities and even promotions.
Why you need obedience school: Some people might think you present your ideas too forcefully. "Growlers are dominant personalities," says Dr. W. Andrew Rollo, an associate at Madison Veterinary Hospital in Madison Heights, Mich., and a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member. "As a result, they can ruin the team's harmony." But don't ditch your assertiveness, just be cognizant of your tone. Soften your approach if team members grimace. And be sure you listen as often as you speak.
Also be careful that your interactions with team members don't turn into dogfights. Consider this scenario: A new employee is struggling with how to encourage clients to schedule follow-up visits. Jackie, the head receptionist, barks the script the employee is supposed to follow, getting louder every time the employee asks a question.
No translators necessary
Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, PHR, owner of interFace Veterinary HR Systems LLC in Appleton, Wis., says Jackie needs to remember what it's like to be the newbie at a practice. Instead of yelling, Jackie should calmly explain the rationale behind the script the practice has adopted. She'll help the new employee grasp the concept by saying something along the lines of, "I realize there's a lot to learn. However, we need everyone to offer consistent client messages. Let's review the script together so I can explain anything you don't understand."
Whine to get attention
Why you deserve a treat: Nobody likes a Negative Nancy, including the dvm360.com survey respondents—not a single person identified himself or herself as such. But there's no getting around the fact that this type of communicator exists. It's a safe bet that there's even one—or two—at your practice. If you're a closet whiner, don't beat yourself up too much. You do posses a knack for identifying and bringing to light valid problems that need to be addressed.
Why you need obedience school: But pointing out problems is different from complaining. Moaning and groaning about your concerns is usually the least effective way to get them addressed. What's more, whimpering your way around the practice erodes your professional reputation and ability to work with others, Dr. Rollo says. "There's a perception that whiners aren't approachable," he says.
So how do you channel your inner wailer into a source for good? Focus on the team rather than yourself. For example, if you take issue with the way Jackie the receptionist treats you, instead of muttering to your manager about how mean she is, emphasize that Jackie's behavior negatively affects the whole staff. Outline specific situations to your manager so she can get her head around the real issue and assign a higher level of importance to improving working conditions, Dobbs says. And if the issue only affects you, odds are you should resist the urge to grumble publicly.
Howl until things change
Why you deserve a treat: Mix a growler with a whiner and you get a howler. The upside to this type, which 29 percent of dvm360.com survey respondents say they are, is that you help the practice move in new directions. When you see a policy or service that needs improvement, you make sure the whole team knows about the possibilities. And you stay focused until the job is done.
Why you need obedience school: Of course, if you only emphasize issues that upset you, you'll quickly be labeled as a whiner who just speaks more aggressively than most. It's true that your co-workers often say they agree with you, but this probably has more to do with their hesitancy to argue back—unless you face a growler or fellow howler. If you find yourself relentlessly protesting a certain practice policy with little result or feedback, it may be because your team members don't want to choose sides, Dobbs says. So don't force them to. Instead, take your concerns directly to a manager and leave the rest of the team out of it.
Purr until others agree
Why you deserve a treat: You—and 47 percent of dvm360.com survey respondents—are the peacemakers at your practice. You value cohesion and work toward consensus—and with your winning ways, you often achieve it.
Why you need obedience school: While you often win over your managers, you could be isolating your fellow team members. They may view your charm as a deceptive tool that you use to get what you want. To avoid this, be sure to keep your compliments genuine, and work to dole them out to bosses and co-workers alike.
Purrers can improve their professionalism by understanding that the clinic environment is a place for constructive feedback from all levels. "If you're a person with this style, make it a point to meet with your supervisor," Dobbs says. This will help you assess your own weaknesses without feeling personally affronted. And remember that there are times when it's appropriate to have tough conversations with co-workers and managers. Rather than avoiding or dreading these discussions, take them as a learning experience that will only help you and your practice.
Gabrielle Tompkins is a freelance writer living in Chicago. She identifies herself as a purrer with a touch of growler. Send questions and comments to email@example.com.