What to do when a vet tech goes over a practice manager’s head

A new practice manager struggles with a vet tech who has a negative attitude

A veterinary practice manager writes:

I’m an experienced practice manager who took a new management role in a small practice at the beginning of this year.

There is a part-time vet tech whom has been with the practice for years, and has not adapted well to the changes I have implemented. Her attitude is appalling. She is negative in team meetings and shuts down every new idea, always finding a reason why something won’t work. She is frequently late to her shifts and makes excuses about why she has to leave early, and answers personal phone calls during her shift, etc.

For some reason or other, the owner has allowed this behavior to continue and she clearly believes that the expectations I have of everyone else don’t apply to her. I have spoken to her about each of these issues, but it hasn’t changed anything at all.

Yesterday, this team member had a long meeting with the owner, and I’m pretty sure it was about me. Today, the owner asked if he and I can have a meeting next Monday.

I am panicking and concerned that she has made up who­-knows­-what stories about me and my management style, and that the owner will side with her. I don’t know what to do!

Do nothing. Seriously.
 There is no point in worrying about something that may not even be an issue at all. You have no idea what she spoke to the owner about.
 The fact that he has asked to have a meeting with you on Monday may be entirely coincidental. Even if it’s not a coincidence, and the reason for your meeting stems from their conversation, it may not be negative at all. For example, she may have spoken about an area in the practice that is not working, and he has some suggestions on how it can be improved. Granted, she should have come to you as the manager with this and not gone directly to him.

Unfortunately, not everyone follows the ‘rules’ of proper communication channels, business etiquette or accepted protocols. This vet tech and practice owner have worked together for a long time, she trusts him, and she is used to going to him with problems. So yes, while she should have come to you, it’s not a surprise that she has gone to him. This has happened to me a few times before, so I totally understand the frustration.

What’s more important though is how the practice owner handles this. He needs to refer her back to you, and explain that he no longer deals with these issues, and that she needs to speak to you as the new manager.

I’ve always found that there is a thin line here. Here’s the dilemma: if I hire a new manager to run my practice, I want my team to go to them. However, I always want them to know that if they feel they can’t speak to the new manager about something, they do have other avenues for problem resolution. They have to feel like they can still come to me.

So, if the owner hasn’t instructed this vet tech to speak to you directly, he should be involving you in the discussion — which may very well be what he intends to do on Monday!

Bottom line — until you hear him out on Monday, it’s too early to worry about this.


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