If you enjoy going to work every day because you're employed at a veterinary practice where you're rewarded for doing your job well, treated with respect by your superiors, and surrounded by kind, competent peers who collaborate closely, well ... you can probably skip this article. If you're stressed out, burned out, or feeling low because of your job, then you might be part of a toxic practice.
There are new realities facing today's team members: greater work pressure and demands (with fewer people to meet them); increased cost cutting; an increased focus on collaboration and working in teams; and a continued focus on technology. All this sets the stage for a potentially toxic practice environment.
Shawn McVey, MA, MSW
Toxic breeding grounds
The syndrome of toxic work overtakes you when what's happening at the practice causes long bouts of distress—ones where work lives rent free in your head even when you're at home—that culminate in emotional suffering or physical symptoms. Truthfully, team members at every practice have "junk" to deal with. The situation becomes toxic when you feel like you have no ability to change the "junk." In short, work becomes toxic when you feel out of control.
The worst thing that can happen to you as a veterinary team member is to be employed at a practice where the demands are high and you have little control over how to meet those demands. This circumstance is even more prevalent in tough economic times when employers can offer little job security and employees may feel trapped in a toxic environment. When you really need your paycheck, it's hard to just up and leave your job, even if you feel frustrated, disrespected, stressed out, or angry.
Still, remaining in a toxic veterinary practice—or allowing the poisonous situation to continue—can create another negative consequence: Lost confidence in your skills and yourself. You might start thinking, "Am I stupid? Do I not know what I'm doing?" This leads to avoidance. You avoid dealing with the issues and engaging in the discussions you need to have because you're afraid that your attempts won't go right and that no one will listen to you.