Understanding employees' attitudes and how you can adjust them

It's time to adjust your cat-titude to make way for service that leaves pet owners purring. Consider this advice to come up to scratch when clients visit your practice.
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Jun 01, 2013
By dvm360.com staff

Have you ever gotten your hackles up because someone asked you to do something that wasn't in your job description? It used to be when you visited a clinic you'd find a veterinarian, a veterinary assistant and maybe someone up front answering phones. Often it was a slower pace and everyone was responsible for everything.

We now walk into clinics and find much more specific job titles: client service representatives, exam room assistants, pharmacy technicians, nutrition advisers and even credentialed technicians with accredited specialties. The idea of one person doing everything in the clinic doesn't really make sense anymore, nor is it possible in most circumstances. Unfortunately, with these changes we also see a familiar problem set in: "This is my area of responsibility and I don't stray from it." Or worse, "This is my area of responsibility—keep out!"

This can be frustrating for team members and managers but even more frustrating for clients. Think of the last time you went grocery shopping and waited a long time to check out. You were tired, short on time and getting angrier by the minute. Worse, as you scanned the front of the store, you saw two to three employees standing around talking. This took your anger to another level of infuriation. Why in the heck couldn't they be doing something to help? Imagine how you'd have felt to see those employees bag groceries, guide shoppers to shorter lines and even offer to help place items on the checkout counter for you?

So what caused those grocery store employees to think it was OK to stand there and chat as you waited in line feeling miserable, thinking, "I'm never going to get home for dinner"? What causes our team members to think it's OK to hang out in the back while the phone rings off the hook and our appointments are running 45 minutes behind? Let's take a look at a couple of the common situations that tend to trigger the phrase, "That's not my job!" These are just some of the attitudes that distract us from our goal of working together to serve clients.

Separate the lazy daisies

Let's talk about the glaring answer first: pure laziness. While a coworker may be lazy, often this behavior is a symptom of something greater. True, there are some of us working in veterinary clinics who are here just for a paycheck. If that sounds like you, I encourage you to rethink your career choice and look for something that stirs your passion. You aren't going to find happiness in "just a job," and it's going to be obvious to you and everyone else that you don't really care.

Tame the turf wars

"They don't help me. Why should I help them?" Before you say this, let me remind you we aren't in grade school, and you're not going to be hearing the third period bell ringing anytime soon. So it's time to grow up. If you make a concerted effort to help others, over time most people will reciprocate. Don't become frustrated when you put forth the effort and it isn't immediately returned. Human behavior changes over time, so have some patience. Put the scorecard away. A cohesive team doesn't keep track to make sure everything's even Steven. If a month goes by and there seems to be one or two people who hold back, meet with them and share your thoughts. Let them know what your plan is to help out and describe how their help would not only benefit you but also clients and pets. You might start with a gentle prompt, like this:

You: "In the past few months, I've been trying to improve how I work by pitching in when I see ways I can help. What can I do to help you?"

In many cases, this will encourage others to reciprocate and ask what they can do to help you, too.