We all hear about how we should have hobbies outside of veterinary medicine. It gives us time to decompress or enjoy an activity that isn’t work related. Recently I decided to take up gardening. Just a little background here; I once killed a bamboo plant. That’s almost impossible to do. The notion I was going to have a gorgeous garden was a tad idealistic, but I started slow. I began watering the garden twice daily, pruning roses and potting plants in the hopes they could survive the heatwave of summer. I was surprised when sprouts began to spring up and flowers began to bloom.

Then I noticed these adorable little plants that resembled tiny pine trees! I got excited and was curious to see how their rapidly sprouting foliage would turn out. I noticed them not just in my flower beds but sprouting up amongst the hearty blackberry bushes. Then I saw them begin to pepper my gravel driveway. Given that I am a not a botanist, I did a quick Google image search and my heart sank. I had been tending to and caring for a proliferative weed.

Not just any weed, to be more specific a weed called “Horse Tail.” This weed is so sturdy it dates to Paleozoic times. You heard me. It’s a dinosaur weed. It’s a weed that was so resilient that it survived the greatest extinction the Earth has ever experienced. This weed’s single root could extend 7 feet below the soil. They spread via spores and are toxic if ingested over time. These were weeds of a seriously badass magnitude.

Being an over thinker, I began to think of how these weeds that were destroying any chance I had of a beautiful garden tied into the veterinary team. We hear a lot about team culture and toxic work places. As a practice manager my goal is to tend to my team – to sprinkle encouragement, to shower praise and to keep my garden free from weeds. By allowing just one weed to stay I had unknowingly undermined the hard work I had put into growing my garden. I had jeopardized the growth of all my flowers.

So how do we eliminate these weeds?

Step 1: Identify the weed.

Maybe the weed resembles a tree, flower or a desirable plant. The weeds can be our top producers. They can be the go-to person to troubleshoot or fix things. Maybe they have been in the clinic since the Paleozoic times and know the ins and outs of your practice. But they are negative, combative or stifle the growth of the surrounding team members. Don’t minimize the fact they are a weed because overlooking their destruction is a detriment to the whole team.

Step 2: Remember weeds spread.

When you have a weed on your team, their noxiousness spreads to other team members. Maybe gossip begins to circulate, or morale begins to bottom out. Maybe people start complaining about coworkers, clients or protocols. Whether they multiply by seeds or spores, weeds will spread. They will grab onto your team and clog up your garden. Negativity is contagious. A bad attitude will infiltrate your team and keep them from growing.

Step 3: Get rid of the roots.

Weeds survive and spread based on their root system. Say your potential weed had been dug up when the roots were just beginning, it may not have the ability to damage your garden. When practices allow roots to take hold and spread out into the soil, although it may seem that it is a single root system, it wraps its roots around your hardworking and positive employees and they begin to wilt. Growth of individuals and the practice begins to slow. It’s easier to pluck out the weed before it’s set its root deep within the garden’s soil. The destruction of your garden is worth the effort it takes to unroot a negative team member.

We must remember in this field, that we are all creating and growing our practices. When we allow weeds to take hold we are hurting our team, devaluing the care we provide and lowering the quality of care we offer our patients and clients. Your garden may survive for now, but if you don’t tend to it your team will begin to wilt and fade. No matter how hard you try to nourish them, if weeds proliferate your garden will fail. A garden takes patience, hard work and investment. Give your team the opportunity to grow into the beauty you see in them. Pull the weeds early and often.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.


Jade is a licensed technician of 9 years who lives in Port Orchard, Wash. She enjoys emergency and critical cases, dentistry and creating a bond with her clients and team. During her off time she is busy keeping up with her two crazy Basenjis!