Whether you are a practice manager, owner, or team member, cultivating a positive workplace is essential to preventing conflict and avoiding a toxic environment. Many veterinary professionals cite bullying, workplace drama, and a toxic atmosphere as their reason for leaving a practice—or for leaving the profession altogether. Ideally, the practice manager and owner should accept responsibility for setting the example for maintaining a positive, supportive workplace, which the rest of the team then begins to emulate. However, for a happier, more fulfilling career no matter your position, you can take the initiative to create a congenial work environment. Our StringSoft software team recommends the following tips to help you connect with your colleagues, and create and maintain a positive workplace environment.
#1: Develop positive veterinary practice communication skills
Clear, effective communication is essential for accomplishing team-oriented tasks, and maintaining nonconfrontational working conditions. When working together to provide patient care or meet a client’s needs, team members must be well-versed in clearly and succinctly outlining details and explaining the tasks that must be completed. Misunderstanding can lead to frustration and tension among colleagues, and can disrupt patient care. Current practice management software can help facilitate communication, enabling you to input clear medical records, charges, treatments, and payments in a snap. Each veterinary practice department can add their own patient notes, sharing communication throughout the team.
To help improve your communication skills, consider how your colleagues best communicate, learn, and understand. Some team members are visual learners, whereas others must actually perform a task to develop a full understanding. Practice communicating by using various communication skills that cater to team members’ different learning styles.
In addition, you should consider improving your own active listening skills. By making eye contact, nodding, clarifying details, and asking pertinent questions, you demonstrate to colleagues that you are truly focused on what they are saying. Demonstrating effective communication—both speaking and listening—helps build trust, respect, and respectful professional interactions.
#2: Appreciate each veterinary practice team member’s role
No matter the number of team members your practice employs, clearly defining each employee’s role increases efficiency while preventing turf wars. On a small team, most members are cross-trained and are responsible for multiple tasks. However, to keep your veterinary practice running effectively and efficiently, you must ensure each team member knows their own specific duties and those of their colleagues. By conducting cross-training and role-playing activities during staff meetings, you help foster the entire team’s appreciation for each team member’s role and the important tasks they tackle. When the entire team understands each colleague’s value to providing top-notch client interaction and patient care, they can celebrate each team member’s success, which forges a positive veterinary practice environment.
For example, veterinary technicians often express a profound fear of having to work the front desk. Your customer service representatives (CSRs) may be unaware that technicians are intimidated by their administrative technology and recognize that working the front desk is no easy task. Share these outlooks during staff meetings so each team member understands that a colleague may decline a request for assistance or to fill in for a team member because they are unfamiliar with the required tasks and technology. When the group is together, ensure you highlight each team member’s value, and encourage everyone to show an appreciation for each colleague’s role. You will soon observe deeper respect and more positive interactions among your team’s members.
#3: Acknowledge veterinary practice team achievements and personal growth
While mastering a new skill or reaching a goal is rewarding in and of itself, when your colleagues acknowledge your accomplishments, you feel supported through this relationship-building gesture. As a practice manager or team lead, you should alert the entire group when one of them has placed their first IV catheter, obtained Fear Free certification, or unearthed a time-saving software shortcut. These are accomplishments your entire team should celebrate. By focusing on each team member’s positive achievements, you boost employee morale, encourage growth, and improve the workplace culture.
#4: Ask for help from and return the favor to your veterinary practice team colleagues
Oftentimes, a team member’s feelings can be hurt, and resentment simmers after a colleague does not provide help when requested. However, team members often believe that a colleague should simply have seen that they needed assistance—no questions asked. A cohesive team develops through a desire to work together and to offer—and ask for—assistance when necessary. Include teamwork exercises during staff meetings to encourage team members who are not comfortable asking for help to practice doing so. In addition, explain to shy team members that they should request assistance as soon as they need help rather than waiting until they are struggling and feeling frustrated. When the group is together, perform a roleplay activity, and ask team members to swap roles. This practice can help everyone learn to recognize when a colleague may need assistance with a task.
Common veterinary practice stressors can strain colleague interactions. Inefficient workflows, overwhelmed staff, and outdated equipment and software can create veterinary team member frustration and impatience. To lighten your team’s stress load, upgrade your practice management software. Schedule a demo to learn how StringSoft software can make each team member’s job easier, facilitate communication, and boost morale, job satisfaction, and your veterinary practice’s workplace environment.