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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Being The Boss

Here's another insight into the life and times of a vet that many people never realize. Though I don't own the practice I work for, I do manage one of the locations. Much of the daily duties I delegate to my Office Manager and Director of Pet Nursing (DPN), but I keep track of things closely and put my hand in when needed. Tomorrow I have to help fire someone.

The person in question has had a problem with repeated tardiness, coming in late regularly even up to 30+ minutes. My DPN and I have talked to her repeatedly about it and have given her warnings. That didn't seem to correct it. So we had written discussions outlining what she needed to do to improve (very simply, show up on time). Even that didn't seem to help. So a little over a month ago we had a final discussion, basically stating that if she was late even one more time by even one minute, she was going to loose her job. Today she was 38 minutes late because she didn't turn up the volume on her cell phone and relied on that as her alarm clock. She has been given multiple opportunities and well over a dozen "second chances", and the problem has persisted. What is sad is that she actually does a good job when she is at work. Unfortunately, allowing this would set a bad precedent, and it does interfere with the flow of work.

This is not the first time that I have been involved in terminating someone's employment (to use "nice" terms), but it doesn't really get easier. My DPN is going to be the one to talk to her, but I'm going to be there for support and authority. I know that there is a high likelyhood of begging, pleading, crying, etc., as I've seen it before. However, she knew that this could happen, and in fact WOULD happen if she was late again, so she shouldn't be completely surprised.

This is another of those things they don't teach us in vet school. I have had to learn how to be a good manager through seminars and experience. I have made many mistakes over the years, and realize that I've been a poor manager in several situations. But I have tried to improve on that and believe I do a pretty good job overall. Confrontation is never easy, but as a manager it's something you can't get away from. You have to learn to steel yourself to it, be firm but fair, and not let someone's emotions influence your better judgement. Letting a problem fester and build not only makes the work environment suffer, but it becomes harder to deal with the longer it exists.

So any vets-to-be out there, keep this lesson in mind. You're likely going to be managing staff at some point, even if it's because you're the only doctor on duty that day. Your success as a veterinarian will often depend on your ability to handle people and manage conflicts and difficult situations. This is not the right profession for someone with poor people skills. Start to hone them now.