The VHMA files: Take the ouch out of feedback in your veterinary clinic

Use these tips to deliver honest feedback to employees and coworkers.
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Jul 01, 2013
By dvm360.com staff

In many offices, team members are feeling the pressure to do more with less—fewer team members, fewer resources and limited time. And the economic climate is placing even more stress on employees. As we perform our jobs in this highly charged environment, we will hit bumps along the way. We'll make mistakes, our coworkers will forget to do something, and our managers may even take us to task. It's inevitable.

We may not be able to control external events, but we can keep our composure and control how we respond to—and give—feedback. To ensure your practice stays an effective, cordial and productive environment, it's important for all employees to evaluate how they receive and provide feedback.

Stick to the facts

Good communication skills are, for the most part, learned. It takes practice and confidence to deliver your message effectively. First and foremost, make sure your feedback is timely. If a colleague is rude to a pet owner, don't stew about the incident. Instead, address the situation as soon as possible.

When you find an opportunity to speak with your coworker, be specific and quantify the behavior. Adopting this approach helps you successfully communicate the facts of the behavior, rather than infusing the message with emotional comments. For example, if you believe a colleague demonstrates brusque behavior with clients, approach the situation by identifying the behavior, not judging it. "You're very dismissive of our clients" will not be as well received as, "When Mrs. Smith asked very pointed questions about her cat's prognosis, and twice you seemed to brush off her concerns by telling her not to worry." When presented in this manner, your colleague can clearly understand the concerning behavior.

Ask yourself if you're willing to be open-minded and listen to the colleague's response. When you quantify and provide specific examples, you not only increase your colleague's self-awareness, but you also lay the foundation for understanding behavior and working toward a solution. Perhaps Mrs. Smith demonstrates obsessive concern over her cat's health. Through collaboration, you and your coworker can craft a solution that assuages Mrs. Smith's concerns and reins in her obsessive inquiries while maintaining a respectful and courteous relationship.

By approaching the issue in a nonthreatening, factual way, you increase the chance your coworker will respond in kind. The goal for this conversation is to share the information in an atmosphere of collaboration instead of a combat zone.