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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Laying Down The Law?

It's hard being a vet and being in charge of a hospital.  There are numerous difficult decisions to make.  Which lab tests do I need to run?  What treatment do I use for a given disease?  What are the odds of survival in any case?  How many surgeries to I take each day? 

But I think that the hardest decisions involve running personnel.  At my current location I've been facing this problem off and on for a couple of years now, always with different people.  Part of it is that many people seem to enjoy gossiping and talking behind each others' backs.  I've had team meetings and tried to tell everyone that it had to stop, but I can't be there every time people talk. 

My latest problem involves two very skilled but very strong-willed people.  One has been there for around a year, and the other is a relative newcomer, but someone I've known for a few years and wanted to have join our team.  There is always some tension when a new person joins a group, especially in a leadership position.  But lately it has been beyond even that.  These two people are great at their jobs, but for whatever reason feel some hostility towards each other.  That tension is quite palpable and is affecting everyone's performance.

So today I had a talk with them.  My plan was to lay down the law, tell the two main people that I wasn't going to tolerate this anymore, and then force them into a situation where they would work it out.  It didn't take long for the discussion to deteriorate into raised voices and harsh words.  I let them try and talk it out, but when it became obvious there wasn't going to be a resolution, I stepped in and ended it, but I don't know that we solved anything.

Now we're at a crossroads.  Both people want to go on to be hospital leaders, and I made it clear that this was a test of their leadership.  The next step is to see how they work over the next couple of days and whether they will let their performance suffer because of the conflict.  Honestly, though, I 'm expecting to loose at least one person out of this situation, if not several.

Managing people is tough.  And certainly nothing we were taught about in vet school!  Give me a bladder surgery or a limb amputation instead of these problems any day of the week!