"He says, she says?..," Who cares?? Let's solve the problem and keep the staff productive! (Proceedings)

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"He says, she says?..," Who cares?? Let's solve the problem and keep the staff productive! (Proceedings)

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Nov 01, 2009

I remember when I started my practice over 20 years ago that I was surprised and intrigued by certain employment policies that I heard some of the newer "corporate" practices, as well as many smaller practices had implemented. One policy in particular that, at the time, I found amusing was that employees were not allowed to become romantically "involved" with one another, and it was even discouraged for employees to socialize with each other outside of the hospital. Personally, I found that to be too restrictive, and even wondered about the legal ramifications. Also, since so many of my own employees were already friends who came to me from each other's recommendations, it would have been very hard for me to enforce a policy stating they couldn't fraternize with each other outside of the hospital. Plus, I liked the fact that they all got along so well as it kept the spirit around the practice upbeat.

Unfortunately, it didn't take long for the employee's inter-personal "like-affairs" to become challenged, and with that the advent of even more issues than I bargained for as a new practice owner. I was amazed just how petty people could be, and how sensitive their fragile egos were. I knew from my first job as an employee veterinarian how I needed to sharpen my skills in the art of conflict resolution to deal with the many client issues and problems which often occur in practice, but I honestly didn't think that I'd be using those same skills to deal with my employee issues as well. My practice has now grown to a 4 doctor practice, which is great, but sadly, having 3 occasionally quarreling associates, who have sometimes given new meaning to the term "cat-fight," I've found myself dealing with petty issues between them as well. The truth is, the larger the practice, the larger the staff, hopefully, the larger the revenues, but definitely the larger the headaches!

I'm sure the issues I encounter are nothing new, but for humor's sake, I'd like to go over some of our frontrunners. As far employees, problems arise around issues of scheduling, responsibilities, advancement, and, of course, raises. Don't kid yourselves—your employees all know (or have a pretty good idea) of what their co-workers make. I've seen many a "friendship" turn sour because of these issues. How often have we taken a kennel person who has shown promise and started to train them to become a technician assistant, and then, depending on how talented they are and how quickly they learn, try them as a technician. Now, all of a sudden, his or her former co-workers become resentful—especially if they think they could do the job even better. Or, simply taking one of the kennel or technical staff and promoting him or her to a manager can create animosity and problems. What's even worse is having to deal with cultural issues—specifically Latin men suddenly having to answer to a Latin woman!! Don't ask why, but I've seen this create problems many times! When employees are friends outside of work, there are always the personal issues which arise which can affect the chemistry and teamwork at the practice.