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What your veterinary team members love & hate about their jobs

Article

Find out what team members are saying behind your back-and use their comments to create a happier, more productive workplace.

What do your team members say about the management of your practice? Do you think they say positive things, negative things, or perhaps something in between? Do your team members enjoy working at your practice—or simply tolerate it because they need the money? The answers to these questions can impact staff morale, motivation, productivity, and your practice's image in the community.

At one of my recent seminars, I asked team members to write down what they loved and hated about the doctors and managers at their practices. (No signatures were required so that participants could be forthright in their answers without concern for repercussions.) I've compiled the replies—the good and the bad—with the hope that they'll provide some insight:

Signs your team likes you

"The doctor respects my judgment as a veterinary technician and frequently asks my opinion. It's the highest form of praise and very gratifying."

"For the most part, my reasons for staying on this job are the quality of my relationship with the doctor and a situation where I am not taken advantage of on the basis of workload, salary, or degree of respect."

"He makes us feel important and lets clients know we're important. He never calls us 'the girls' and always uses our names."

"When my father died, the doctor told me, 'Take as much time as you need. We'll cover for you.' It was a very stressful time for me and I will never forget his kindness."

"What's great about this job is the willingness of this doctor—unlike the one for whom I previously worked—to delegate clinical tasks for which I'm qualified. It's an expression of confidence that I greatly appreciate."

"She's easygoing and always ready to try new ideas."

"I love the continuing education courses that we attend and the opportunity it gives us to network, learn new skills, and make our work more interesting and satisfying. Unlike the previous practice at which I worked, our salaries and all travel-related expenses are paid."

"She has a great sense of humor, which makes it pleasant for everyone–clients included."

"He's understanding of my childcare responsibilities and adjusted my hours to accommodate my hectic schedule."

Signs your team hates you

"My boss preaches a lot but doesn't walk his talk about anything."

"The doctors reprimand us in front of clients and coworkers. It's humiliating."

"A new veterinary assistant was hired—with less experience than I have—and she's being paid more than me. I've been here three years."

"The young associate in our practice treats us like we're his slaves: 'Get this! Do that!'"

"I'm often asked to stay late, which is a terrible imposition. To make matters worse, my efforts are not appreciated."

"The doctors reprimand us in front of clients and co-workers. It's humiliating."

"The hospital manager shows favoritism by allowing some employees to bend rules that others must follow."

"Team members who shouldn't be in the practice—who aren't pulling their weight—are allowed to stay."

"The hospital manager micromanages every detail of what I do. It sends a message that she doesn't trust me; it's very demoralizing."

Reality check

Don't underestimate the power of low staff morale. Naturally, unhappy employees don't perform as well as those who truly like their jobs and the people for whom they work. They also tend to be more careless and aren't as pleasant to clients. These shortcomings can take a toll on client satisfaction, referrals, and practice growth. Keep these compliments and complaints in mind while managing your practice. After all, your team members are going to talk about their jobs—might as well give them something good to say.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is the author of 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing, and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices (Jones and Bartlett, 2007).

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