8 ways to earn the respect you deserve

Disrespect hurts emotionally and professionally. Take heart and try this approach to getting your just dues. It can help you love your job—and the people who come with it—again.
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Nov 30, 2009

You know the symptoms: Doctors or co-workers who talk down to you, ignoring your education and experience. They relegate you to simple, repetitive tasks at the clinic when you're capable of a lot more. They badmouth you, your position, or your work in front of clients and colleagues.

What this all amounts to is that sickening, angry feeling of disrespect. Your self-esteem plummets, your frustration level rises, and you wonder whether your job is worth the agony. Fortunately, fixing this problem starts with you. Here's how to show others you deserve recognition.

Step 1: Act the part

If clients don't take you seriously, you're undermining the care you give their pets and, ultimately, your career. "I'm not disrespected," says Janice Reilly, LVT, clinical coordinator at Valley Cottage Animal Hospital in Valley Cottage, N.Y., and instructor at Bergen Community College's veterinary technology program in Paramus, N.J. "The difference is my presence." Reilly meets clients with head held high, making eye contact. She greets the client and the pet. When she explains medical issues, she uses medical language. To present yourself in the same way, follow these tips.

Speak clearly and slowly enough to be easily understood when you present information to pet owners, even when you're in a hurry. Mumbling makes for lousy customer service.

Smile on the phone and in person. Reilly reminds her team to do this and sit up straight, because people calling in notice your change in voice.

Dress like a professional to be treated like one, says Brenda Tassava, CVPM, director of operations at Broad Ripple Animal Clinic and Wellness Center in Indianapolis. "You can't look like you just rolled out of bed," she says. So make sure that whatever uniform you wear is clean and wrinkle-free.

Some days, no matter how you look and act, every client reminds you you're not the doctor. The bottom line is lack of credibility, says Andreas Pahl, MBA, hospital administrator of Valley Cottage Animal Hospital. "When you're not wearing the white lab coat, a client wants to know why you're touching their pet," he says. You must do your part to illustrate your expertise, but it's also up to the doctors to establish credibility for you and your team members. But first you must show the doctor you can be trusted.

Step 2: Establish rapport

To build this credibility, ask the doctors at your hospital if they wouldn't mind introducing you—regardless of your role—whenever you're handling something. The simple act of explaining to clients who you are and what function you play in their pet's care will go a long way. When asking this of the veterinarian, be gentle and respectful. Try something like this: "I've noticed that when you introduce the staff members it seems to make the clients feel more comfortable. Do you think we could do that more often?"

In the worst-case scenario, if the doctor won't adapt, introduce yourself. Many times—especially if you're the receptionist—you see clients before the doctor anyway, so you should've already reached out to them. Before you do anything, politely offer your name, position or title, and what you'll be doing for them or their pets. Then introduce the doctor. If you say something complimentary about the doctor to the client, then the doctor may get the hint and reciprocate.