Conflict Resolution is not a Veterinarian’s Strength

10 Mar

You would think it would be.  They are compassionate enough to want to work with animals.  School trains them to be sagacious in dealing with clients.  They are astute when dealing with health crises.  Maybe all of these attributes just don’t extend to staffing issues.  I have seen some vicious parleys between veterinarians and their subordinates almost everywhere I’ve worked.

I walked into work Monday to see a nasty note reprimanding my performance on Saturday.  My cheeks reddened with embarrassing at the public admonishment, and my temper became incarnadine with fury at the unfairness.  Apparently I had not “gently mixed” the ruby blood sample well enough, and the numbers were askew as a result.  Seriously–you can just tell me on the day it happens.  You do not have to enumerate my every mistake in a missive for all to see and send the other doctor to lecture me about it two days later.  It ruined my whole day–right when I set foot in the door.

When I am a veterinarian, I swear, it will be a hard and fast rule to only chastise staff in private.  It is a real problem in small animal medicine at least.  At my first job, Mary saw every decision she made as self-evident truth, and would regularly bark, “Don’t think!” if someone attempted to explain their (perceived) wrong actions.  At Noah’s Ark, the doctor would lose her temper (I postulate it was because she was stressed and they COULD be shit-heads) and scream at staff members in front of everyone.  I hated it–even if it wasn’t directed towards me.  At the emergency hospital, the doctor’s adage was one of anti-social behavior.  He was surly, scary, and short-tempered in general. . .  In Seattle, one of the vets used an axiom of sarcasm, and mean-spirited banter, as well as losing all patience (and mores) and screaming while strewing things of shelves, and generally making a huge scene.

So this current passive-aggressive public humiliation is not the worst, but I think all of the above behavior is out-of-line and counter-productive.  I wish the veterinarians I have worked for could just slake their aggression and talk (calmly) to the staff.  I think co-workers and authority figures should moderate their tempers even if they are super-annoyed and work closely together.  And if they can’t–they should hire an office manager to satisfy disciplinary issues with poise.

While we’re talking about authority figures I want to bring up another power issue.  I venerate the veterinarians I have worked for.  Even if I think some of them are total tool-bags as people, I respect all the hard work they had to do to get in, and pass veterinary school and their boards.  They are obviously perspicacious if they have made it this far.  That said, I refuse to grovel at their feet.  I am a person too, and that should also garner a little respect.  I am hard-working, plucky, and human.  I have many attributes and though I am not a doctor, I should never have to kowtow just because of that fact.  I absolutely HATE when veterinarians have some power/dominance issues and require me as staff to boot-lick and defer to them in ALL matters.  Doctors that get their self esteem from making their staff humble themselves constantly are high maintenance!

All of these concerns would be mollified if veterinarians would learn to treat the staff like people.  As a leader, the doctor should be conciliating problems that arise instead of exacerbating  them.  In a crucial anesthetic moment, does the surgeon get stressed (well of course they do, we ALL do) and panic rather than buckling down and taking steps to correct it?  Staffing should not be any different.  Logic should not take a back seat to emotions.  When I am a vet, I plan to have high expectations, but when things go wrong, I will pacify my anger and deal with them.

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