Heal your fractured veterinary team

Heal your fractured veterinary team

Constant conflict creates a wedge between you and your co-workers and shatters teamwork. Learn to fill in the crevices you've created and repair your broken team.
Apr 01, 2013

Perhaps conflict strikes like lightning at your practice, with sudden flashes that scorch the earth, blinding you and your co-workers to the tasks at hand. Maybe it begins as a slow simmer of resentment, bubbling up through the cracks as snarky comebacks or silent glares that eventually boil over to lay waste to the entire practice.

While the details of your conflict might differ from practice to practice, the tools are the same. There are three common forms of conflict:

1. Leadership conflict. These confrontations often occur over issues of authority—who's in charge or possesses the power.

2. Operational conflict. This conflict crops up in practices when everyone isn't on the same page about practice operations.

3. Interpersonal conflict. In these cases, personalities clash.

Let's look at examples of each and discuss whether these busted teams can be repaired.

Fractured leadership

Beth has been the manager for We Care Animal Hospital for several years. Dr. Cares delegates human resources and financial responsibilities to Beth, but when the conflict involves a favored team member who broke a practice policy, Dr. Cares intervenes, undermining Beth's authority with the team.

The prognosis when the conflict involves issues of power is fair to good. It's fixable if lines are drawn. The owner may want the manager to take charge, but he needs to set boundaries so he's not undermining or avoiding issues with Beth.

Conflict can occur at different levels of leadership in the practice—for example, disagreements between the practice manager and lead technician or head receptionist. A lack of clear boundaries creates the conflict.

This type of conflict only becomes difficult to fix when one person is insecure or feels threatened by changes when you establish new leadership roles. To manage this conflict successfully, you must possess communication skills to create conversations between the leader and the team member so both team members possess a clear idea of the practice's vision and goals. If those elements aren't in place and a power struggle occurs, then people begin to fight with one another instead of working together to accomplish tasks. Eventually in a power struggle one person can pull the, "I'm in charge, so I win" card, and this is the beginning of the end of a work relationship.

What to do: Talk with the practice owner and draw lines about who's responsible for tasks. Then the practice owner must practice stepping aside. Work together to develop a proper mission statement, practice vision, and values you live by. If your boss can't stick to boundaries, it may be time to move on.