Terminating team turf wars

If your practice faces rivalries between doctors and staff and older and younger generations, read this.
source-image
Oct 01, 2009

Team members vs. veterinarians
One of the associate doctors flaunts medical jargon and talks over the staff. This leaves employees confused and hesitant to ask questions at the risk of seeming ignorant. The veterinarian doesn’t see the need to “dumb it down” and believes team members need to learn their stuff. The overall outcome is that pet owners don’t get the information they need. What’s the solution?

When you have a problem with a doctor—or any team member—you must take the initiative to solve it. In the situation of a veterinarian who doesn’t communicate effectively, it’s time to engage that doctor in a conversation that starts like this: “Could you say that statement in a way I could more easily understand so I can be most effective in working with you and communicating your recommendations to clients.” By focusing on the idea of better serving clients and patients, you’re more likely to reach a better understanding.

Remember that some veterinarians might not even realize their word choice is a challenge—medical terminology seems natural to them. They’ll appreciate you bringing the issue to light.

What you shouldn’t do: Worry about whether the doctor thinks you lack knowledge. In this case, that concern isn't part of the equation. After all, you can’t win that battle immediately—even learning all the jargon will take weeks or years. Instead, focus on what’s important, and that's doing the best job for pets and their owners.

Baby Boomers vs. Generation  Y
Older generations complain that younger generations are lazy, while the younger set moans about the older generation’s inflexibility. Team members in their 50s respect authority, and those in their teens and 20s seem to question it. When these two groups work side by side, friction can start.

Rather than trying to change behaviors ingrained in each generation, move on to looking at the bright side: Each set of employees offers unique strengths. Such as members of Generation Y, who grew up with technology and use it as naturally as if they were breathing. Don’t assume every young person wants to be the next Bill Gates, but it’s safe to guess that if your practice needs someone to be in charge of texting clients with reminders, a Gen Y employee could easily handle the job. That’s not to say a Baby Boomer couldn’t, especially since one of that generation’s greatest strengths is encouraging change. This just means that an older person’s adaptability might be more readily put to use organizing team problem-solving sessions.

The real key to bridging the generation gap, though, is realizing that your way isn’t the only way. Someone who values work-life balance can still be dedicated to the practice without logging 12-hour shifts. And mature employees who value respect over the opportunity to exert their personal opinions can still generate solid ideas and engage clients and other employees in rousing discussion. The lesson: Step back and take a look at what you can learn from someone who’s on the other side of the generational divide.

Insider scoop: Keep your eyes peeled for the October issue of Firstline for more common practice rivalries, along with ideas on how to bury the hatchets.