7 deadly sentences

7 deadly sentences

Saying the wrong thing to co-workers or clients kills your ability to foster productive working relationships. Avoid these cursed comments to keep strong bonds alive.
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Jun 01, 2009



Words can bless or burn you. A carefully crafted compliment could make clients think your practice is heaven-sent. But utter a round-about put down and their view of you could quickly turn hellish. Co-workers are no different. They can have the same hot and cold reactions to your words. To ensure you're creating trust instead of torment, strike these seven statements from your verbal repertoire.

1. Greed
"I want credit for my great idea."

Because of your eco-savvy suggestion of e-mailing clients appointment reminders, you helped rid the practice of excessive paper use. Now everyone's happy: The practice is saving money, your co-workers are saving the Earth, your clients appreciate the new technology, and you, well, you're wondering why a week has rolled by and no one's said thanks.

Why this statement's sinful: Seeking hordes of recognition breeds individualism rather than team cohesiveness, says Kaylin Rikansrud, practice manager at Sumner Veterinary Hospital in Sumner, Wash. "When that starts to happen, you very quickly see a deterioration of working and developing ideas together, and you get a lone-wolf feeling." Sulking because your contribution didn't get enough air play builds resentment, which your team members and clients can sense. And bitter people aren't effective at their jobs.

How to sweeten the sentiment: Working in a team environment, like a veterinary practice, requires unselfishness, says Gina Toman, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and practice manager at Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C. Instead of thinking about what you're personally taking away from a situation or what your own reputation will be, adopt the approach of trying to be helpful to co-workers and clients. And don't forget the golden rule: Do unto others. Remember, you were hurt when your achievements went unmentioned. So be sure to praise team members when they excel. Before you know it, the accolades will be flying in all directions.

2. Pride
"The clinic down the street isn't half as good as our hospital."

It's obvious that you work for the best practice in the area. You even boast the statistics and polo shirt to prove it. Putting down the competition seems like just another way of giving pet owners the facts.

Why this statement's sinful: If you get a price shopper on the phone, you must proceed with caution, Toman says. Resist the urge to point out other practices' flaws because clients could hear your comparison as slander. In the same vein, be wary of joining new clients in bashing the competition. Pet owners might tell you about the awful experiences they had down the road. But you know that clients' interpretations of how their visits went may be different from what actually happened. "If you jump on the bandwagon and speak negatively about another practice, you're actually tearing down yourself," Rikansrud says. "You're showing the client how little character you have." And clients want a practice that strives for professionalism.

How to sweeten the sentiment: Talk up your offerings instead of talking down your competition. You don't need to brag about how great your team is or how many awards your practice has won, but you do need to focus on your offerings. Specifically, tell clients about your services and how they benefit people and their pets. For example, go ahead and mention that your clinic is the only one within a 15-mile radius that carries a CO2 laser that reduces recovery time, Toman says. Play up your specialties to help clients choose a practice in their pets' best interest.