Ask Shawn: How can we stop bathroom break abuse in our veterinary clinic?

Ask Shawn: How can we stop bathroom break abuse in our veterinary clinic?

Our assigned office call technician takes frequent, long restroom breaks. How should I approach this topic with the employee?
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May 01, 2012


Shawn McVey, MA, MSW
Our assigned office call technician takes frequent, long restroom breaks. Oftentimes when the doctor comes out of an exam room and needs help, this employee is in the bathroom. I have a hunch she's on her cell phone, which is against practice policy during business hours. To my knowledge she doesn't have a medical issue that requires frequent potty breaks. How should I approach this topic with the employee? —POTTY PROBLEMS

DEAR PROBLEMS:
Aside from the obvious diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome or other medical condition, there's no reason an employee should be away from her post for that long. As a service business, we rely on promptness and attentiveness to provide clients with a sense of care beyond the medicine we provide.

I would approach the employee immediately and keep the conversation focused on behavior. The fact that she's in the bathroom is irrelevant. If she's using the cell phone in the bathroom you can't prove that, but you can prove that she is away from her post. The truth is that she is away from her assigned position, not present on her job, and most likely not completing all of her duties. These behaviors alone should be enough to take corrective action.

When you confront the employee, be prepared for the use of the restroom as a defense and use that opening to require her to get a doctor's note that would justify the amount of time she takes for medical breaks. If this is a real medical issue, you may consider reassigning job duties to match her new needs. —SHAWN

Shawn McVey, MA, MSW, is a member of the Firstline and Veterinary Economics editorial advisory boards and is CEO of McVey Management Solutions in Chicago. For videos and articles containing more of McVey's tips and tricks on issues relating to veterinary personnel management, conflict, and communication, visit http://dvm360.com/mcvey.