I am the sole owner of a small practice and don’t have a practice manager. Two veterinary technicians on my team just don’t get along. One of them has been with us for about a year (“Lisa”), and the other about two months (“Jane”).
Things were good in the beginning, and they got along very well. I think they quickly became friends out of work, but now they are not getting along. They say they are still friends, and I hear from other team members that they see each other outside work, but there has been a lot of tension between them at work and it’s affecting everyone.
For example, Lisa will come to me with minor errors that Jane has made and vice versa. When I have approached Jane to give her feedback, she blamed Lisa and took the opportunity to vent to me about her work ethic and client service. Jane is also not happy about taking direction from Lisa, and she has complained about being delegated menial tasks or the manner in which Lisa speaks to her.
I spoke to each team member about this individually to address some of the specific concerns, but it doesn’t seem to have helped. Lisa and Jane are now recruiting other team members into this playground behavior, and it’s really affecting team morale.
My gut feeling is that Jane is the problem, as there were no issues with Lisa prior to Jane joining the team. Lisa is fantastic at her job and I was thinking of promoting to her to Head Nurse.
Jane, on the other hand, has already been absent a twice times and has brought other personal drama to work. She’s an OK technician, and if I had time to recruit someone else, I would probably replace her. Unfortunately, we are really busy and short-staffed already, so I don’t think that replacing her right now is the right move.
This is a really toxic dynamic that you do not want to allow to continue.
Unfortunately, I’ve spoken to practice owners and managers who have described similar situations, and when I ask how long this has been going on for, they say “two years.” You need to nip this in the bud right now.
That may mean replacing Jane. I know this seems difficult right now, but allowing this to continue will end up costing you far more time, money and frustration. Eventually, client service and even patient care can be affected too. You could also risk other great team members resigning because they simply don’t want to work in that toxic environment.
I would have a conversation with each of them individually and frame it like this: “Lisa, you have been with us for a year and you are a great technician. You quickly became an integral member of the team, and I see a bright future here for you. I would like us to have a Head Nurse soon, and I think you have what it takes.
However, recently I have been very concerned about your behavior. I see that there is tension between you and Jane, and I don’t want to get into the specifics of ‘he said/she said,’ but this is not the behavior I would expect of a Head Nurse. If you would like to stay with us and continue to develop, this needs to stop right now. Can you assure me that can happen?”
Then, I would have a conversation with Jane, along the lines of, “Jane, you are new to the team and I know you made some friends here quickly, which is great. However, I’m concerned that you are bringing your personal life to work and that you are bringing me minor complaints about Lisa and gossiping with other team members.
This behavior is not in line with our values. I think you have potential, but I have to remind you that you are still within your 90-day probationary period and this behavior will not be tolerated. Can you assure me that this will stop immediately?”
The important thing is to follow up with each of them if this problem continues. Do it immediately at the first sign of complaining, gossiping or pettiness. You should treat this as you would any other performance issue, which may mean giving formal warnings and terminating employment.
You may also like to hold a positive team meeting where you remind everyone what your practice values and principles are, and highlight that you expect everyone to follow them.
Tanja Mimica is the CEO & CoFounder of ConsultMates, a global marketplace for practice owners to find, review & engage veterinary practice management experts. ConsultMates provides owners and managers easy online access to hourly advice from industry experts, or help from experienced practice managers with implementing short-term projects in their hospitals.
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