The real reasons why some veterinary team members don’t care

May 14, 2020

A veterinary practice manager and consultant shares from personal experience why some team members are disengaged—and what to do about it.

If you take the time to look, there’s usually little mystery about why some staff members at veterinary clinics are “checked out.” Many of the reasons for employee apathy stem from hospital mismanagement. Here’s a look at some of the top factors and a few solutions to combat them.

They don’t care

For some team members, the reason why they don’t care is that they truly don’t care. Specifically, they don’t care about the work you do or the job they have. For some, their job in a veterinary practice is equivalent to a retail job at Target or a lifeguard post at the local pool. Hiring folks who don’t have a sincere desire to work in animal health is like trying to staff The Ritz-Carlton with a crew from Motel 6. After dozens of interviews with America’s best companies, one hiring strategy is common to all: Don’t suffer the fools. Terminate them.

You don’t care

That’s right. The reason your employees don’t care is because they don’t think you do. High-functioning people want their hard work and success acknowledged. I understand that you’re busy being a full-time veterinarian, but don’t forget to acknowledge your employees’ contributions and growth. Appreciation and approbation are powerful tools when wielded with sincerity.

Their jobs are mundane

I once visited a practice where the owner complained that his team was “brainless.” Upon closer inspection, I discovered that he was right; they weren’t the brightest bulbs in the box! What was interesting to me was that he hired the very people he was complaining about. His dictatorial management style and his insistence that only he could make decisions regarding service, care, client issues, and the like naturally eliminated all employees eager to think for themselves. It’s in your best interest to hire people who think like owners, but here’s the trick: Let them try to act like owners, too.

The work environment is toxic

One quick way to suck the life out of your veterinary team is by allowing—or being part of—an unhealthy work environment where people backstab, gossip, gripe, snipe and bicker incessantly. And even worse, if you, yourself, are the perpetrator of such antics. Sure signs of a toxic workplace environment include chronic callouts, high turnover, employee isolation and sluggish productivity. These are all hints that your employees are disengaged. It’s never too late to turn around a negative workplace, but it requires honestly and open communication among the entire team.

Your mission statement is two-faced

At one practice, a nurse noticed that she had missed a boarder’s treatment. She planned on telling the pet owner about the oversight but was coached by the practice owner to stay quiet because no harm had been done. Perhaps this should have been the mission statement for this practice: “We have the best service around … provided you’re gullible enough to believe it!” If you want to create a team of enthusiastic employees, create an ethical and moral system that they’ll want to engage in—not one that only counts when someone’s looking.

Bash Halow is a practice consultant and owner of Halow Consulting as well as a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager, a Licensed Veterinary Technician and (best of all for us) a regular Fetch dvm360 speaker.