Human Resource – Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Employee and management conflict in your veterinary practice

Sometimes you just have to ask; Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?  We’ve all had to work with people we don’t like.  They can turn a job you otherwise love into your own daily personal hell and a human resource nightmare.  “Conflict happens”, to paraphrase the bumper sticker. Overall, you genuinely enjoy work. You like your job and the patient cases are interesting. But whenever you think about that one coworker, you get a knot in your stomach and suddenly feel the urge to cuss.

You’re not alone and I join the ranks of being in this position with a co-worker, so I get it.

Understandably, when you work closely with the same people day in and day out, certain individuals; that perpetual slacker, the hyper-competitive, your control-freak clinic manager, that brown-nosing bootlicker — are going to push your buttons, sometimes bringing out the worst in you. But there is hope. Understanding why this friction occurs and identifying healthy ways of dealing with it can make your little corner of the clinic a much more peaceful place.




“It’s not just how we take care of our clients, but how we take care of each other. Clients really notice clinic interacton”



By creating an environment where teamwork is one of the top priorities, veterinary clinics can retain valued employees, increase client satisfaction and most importantly, employees will feel like they’re appreciated and be excited to come to work.

Often, the most important part of creating an effective team begins long before problems begin to crop up. Clinic Owners should focus on hiring the right people for their environment, both in terms of management and team-member positions.  They also need to understand that sometimes employee time is up, and they have to terminate those employees like “Jane”.

Let me tell you about my experience with a clinic manager we’ll call “Jane” for the sake of anonymity.  Jane and I worked in a clinic setting together for about 3 years.  Jane’s intellect ranged below the common ground squirrel. After her consistent and annoying harassment of my co-workers and I for the 3 years, and driving more than 30 employees to quit in 3 years (yes, 30 employees), because of a barbaric management style, I can honestly say she was one of the few true genetic wastes of our time.

You see, Jane worked at the clinic for 30 years.  She never had to develop any management skill because she just “always was”.  It was her way or the highway, and the clinic owners became blind to her bullying tactics with employees.  She would wander around the clinic all day, shiftlessly seeking fault in others. She would pawn off everything to overworked staff, hoping their talent would cover for her glaring ineptitude. Kudos to her, it was allowed for decades so who could fault her to continue on with what worked?  I on the other hand, perfected the art of the gritted-toothed smile and eventually left the clinic to find a less hostile environment to utilize my marketing skill.

The “Jane’s” are everywhere.  Naturally, dealing with any person who has a serious character disturbance or disorder is never easy.  And there are no foolproof methods to neutralizing the distress such a person can bring into your work life.  It’s disappointing to see these people as clinic Managers,  so let’s take a look at some management styles and how to deal with them:


Hello, I’m A Narcissists:


They will often do well in positions of power, because they take that power very seriously and value it highly, and often work very hard in those roles.

Narcissists have an inflated sense of their own importance and crave constant attention and praise.  They are self-absorbed and lack the capacity for empathy.  You have to realize that this person won’t care what other people are feeling, which is a huge drawback in the workplace.


The Answer ~ Take Nothing Personally

Remind yourself that your boss’s responses or reactions are not about you. They are about his need to feel superior. If he is being snarky or patronizing, remember this is not a reflection on you or your work, but rather caused by his own deep-seated needs. It’s recommended to simply not respond to your boss’s bravado and deal with the facts.


Hello, I’m Passive-Aggressive:


The Answer ~ Be Direct, Put Everything in Writing, Don’t Take It Personally

Never forget it’s your boss that has the issue. Don’t let it become your problem by stressing over unspoken words and vibes. Be as professional as you know how to be. Accept criticism with grace. Be grateful and generous with praise. Don’t be absorbent, allowing your mood to ebb and flow with their passive-aggressive quirks. Let the good and the bad roll off your back like a duck, and then move on out of the puddle before you get your feet wet!


Hello, I’m A Gossip:


The Answer ~ Is It Fact?

Gossip mongers often have little regard for fact. So, when you hear something outrageous or questionable, push for real answers. “Oh, wow, that sounds pretty extreme. Is that actually fact? Or did you hear that from someone?” You’ll quickly set the expectation that you won’t engage in frivolous chatter that’s not based in fact. In turn, gossips will likely steer clear of you because asking for facts takes all the fun out of it for them.


Hello, I’m A Micromanager:


The Answer ~ Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

You’ll certainly be tempted to shut down out of sheer frustration, but the key here is to communicate more than you think you need to until you earn her trust. Like a wild animal, she’s feeling skittish. So, to begin, don’t make any surprise moves, and tell her exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Share updates. Give progress reports. Though it may make you feel like your brain is bleeding, make her feel like a trusted advisor by asking for her input and advice. Then, eventually, you can say: “I hope I’ve proven to you that I’m capable of handling this on my own. Is there anything else you need to see from me for that to happen?


Hello, I Play Favourites:


The Answer ~ Ignore And Get On With Your Job

No, it’s not fair, but this is one time when it might be best to ignore the problem. And that’s because complaining will be unlikely to change your superior’s mind. Resist the temptation to whine to co-workers, gossip about your boss’s office pet or keep an endless tally of what she got that you didn’t. Instead, keep a close eye on your own progress. Schedule time with your boss to map out your career goals, figure out what behavior she admires in that other person (if it’s job-related), and be sure to exceed your goals. In the end, that’s your best shot at coming out ahead.


If you just can’t get along with your impossible boss ….. update your resume and try to get out of there. A poisonous boss is nothing you want to have to deal with long term.



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