The Pizza Principle

The Pizza Principle

Here's what pizza can teach you about appreciating your veterinary practice managers and owners.
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Apr 24, 2017

Shutterstock.comSpecial people work in veterinary hospitals. That’s an easy sentence to defend. Doctors, technicians, assistants, CSRs—all compassionate, intelligent people who elect to donate their lives for the benefit of pets in the face of lower paying jobs with longer hours.

Maybe less talked about, veterinary owners and managers are also compassionate people, dedicated to the team as well as the patients and clients. I’ve read a lot lately about bullying in the office and how to deal with it. This seems to be a topic of conversation coming to continuing education conferences like the CVC as well. I’d like to believe that most veterinary hospital owners and managers put the care of their team in the highest regard and look forward to doing the small things that may make their staff feel appreciated and taken care of.

For those of you who are being bullied, there are avenues available now to help you. I wish you luck. For the basis of this article, though, I’d like to address appreciation. The hope is that owners and managers show appreciation to their staff through thanks, praise, benefits, treats and pay. I’d like to discuss appreciation in the opposite direction—from the staff to the owners and managers—rather than vice versa.

Enter the Pizza Principle. This is a simple analogy I've used to express how appreciation changes to expectation, then finally to “the norm.” My hope is that after reading this article, you, the reader, will continue to appreciate the small things that owners and managers do to help them, rather than take it for granted.

The scenario:

It’s a busy day at the veterinary hospital. Nobody has time for lunch—there’s not even time to take a break. The hospital has been doing financially better, so the manager decides to buy pizza for everyone for lunch on this busy day. When the pizza arrives, the entire staff emphatically conveys their thanks. They’re smiling and amazed that they work someplace with people so thoughtful to feed them when they’re working so hard.

The next time the hospital is super busy, the manager once again decides to order pizza for lunch since it went over so well last time. The manager also wants to spread cheer on a demanding day. The pizza arrives and the staff is thankful—only this time, some muttering is heard.

“Ugh. Pepperoni again? Why did she get pepperoni again?”

“There aren’t enough vegetarian options—I like the veggie pizza with the mushrooms and broccoli better than this one.”

The third time the manager buys pizza for everyone on a super busy day, the staff comes to her with complaints.

“Maybe next time get some salad options. There are a lot of people here who are trying to be healthy.”

“The crust on this pizza is too thick—I like the other pizza place better.”

Now the manager is left wondering if she indeed needs to order from multiple places next time she wants to feed the staff on a very busy day, and how complicated this may become. Yes, salad would be a good option for the people trying to be healthy, but can she possibly please everyone? Should she continue to order pizza on busy days? Is the demand for different food going to increase every time she orders? Is there any appreciation left?

I once had a technician leave our employ after a year and a half. She called me six months after with the sole purpose of telling me that she did not appreciate what our owners and management did for the staff—the little things—until after she’d left. She took them for granted, and she wanted me to know specifically that our hospital was one of the nicest places that she’d worked at. This was many years ago, but left a big impression on me. And although this is just one example of the little things owners and managers do for their team, I continue to bring in snacks and, yes, pizza, whenever it helps on a busy day—and I always hope my team will continue to appreciate it.

So, reader, please remember to appreciate the benefits your owners and managers give you on a day-to-day basis. All the little things you take for granted—remember them, think kindly of them and don’t take them for granted. Appreciate your owners and managers as well for providing them. Everyone will benefit!

Kristine Suszczynski is the hospital manager at Portland Veterinary Specialists in Portland, Maine.