One of the biggest challenges in vet med is dealing with the vastly strong personalities in this field. I know I sure as heck am not a peach. I can be stubborn, vocal, and stick up for what I believe in. It’s made me some enemies but has also made me some fiercely loyal friends. But what happens when a strong personality goes to the dark side and borders into toxic? When temper tantrums are on display daily and people tiptoe around the clinic, so as not to wake the beast?
The golden rule of dealing with nasty coworkers is to bring their behavior to their attention. I had a dear friend and coworker call me out when I kicked a chair across the treatment area after a particularly stressful day. It was not my finest moment. In fact, it was downright mortifying when she called me out on acting like a prima donna over something so utterly stupid.
I don’t even remember what it was, but I sure remembered being told how ridiculous I was. It made me embarrassed and I vowed not to ever throw such a display again. Sometimes even good people show negative behavior. Calling them out on it in a constructive way can make them take a long hard look in the mirror.
But what if that doesn’t work? What if that makes them blow up worse? What if meetings discussing behavior and even trying to address the underlying cause don’t make a difference? Well, vet med, it’s time to weed out those that have a negative effect on the already stressful culture.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. Fire them. Fire them now. Don’t believe the millionth time that this employee swears that they will change, especially if ample opportunities have been given. Remove the weakest link, even if it seems like they are irreplaceable.
This behavior is affecting business. It is affecting staff and it is affecting patient care, period. When you have good, hardworking staff leaving the clinic because Dr. So and So keeps chewing out the receptionists, that is not ok. When your patients sitting in the hospital hear slamming of doors or screaming, they are terrified. When your staff is unhappy or uncomfortable in their work environment, they aren’t going to instantly be happy when dealing with clients. Clients can sense that. Unhappy clinic cultures kill businesses.
Not only that, they drive out well-meaning, hardworking and less dramatic staff members. One of the main reasons people quit a job or leave the field is due to clinic culture. No one wants to work in an already stressful field if they are getting their butt chewed every time they walk into the building. Even if the animosity isn’t directed at them personally, the tension is enough to damper anyone’s good mood.
Finally, bad behavior is contagious and it sets a dangerous precedent. If the tech that’s been there 20 years can go on tirades, why can’t anyone else? The grip of negative culture takes root and its tendrils reach out to grasp employees who may otherwise not behave in such a manner.
So, if you have a problem employee, it doesn’t matter their title or longevity. Deal with it. A lot is riding on this. Also, if you are in a clinic where this behavior isn’t dealt with, get out. We spend more time with people at work then we do with our own families. So make it a place you are proud of.