4 Ways to Re-engage Your StaffRazib
by Kristin Youngberg, Vetel Diagnostics
When I was working as a veterinary technician, I experienced the unhealthy work environment that can blight a practice from cramming underpaid, overworked staff members into a small, high-stress and fast-paced office. The demand to produce quick and efficient work was a priority over quality and empathy. Many of my coworkers were nearing burnout and had lost the compassionate spark for animals that had brought them into the profession in the first place. I remember helping carry a deceased golden retriever from an exam room while the owner was still present, my coworker brusquely shoving a blanket underneath the limp body without a word, and effectively dumping the dog like a sack of flour into the freezer behind the building. Efficiency is one thing, but at what cost to emotion?
There are many things that can be done to refresh a veterinary practice team, even one that suffers from compassion fatigue to the extent that I encountered. If your team needs a boost, sometimes all it takes is a change in outlook and encouragement from the person in charge.
1. Praise goes further than criticism
Remember learning about B.F. Skinner and conditioning pigeons to perform a desired behavior? The behavior was learned more quickly by rewarding the bird for a near-correct response, than punishing it for an erroneous one.
Pointing out the mistakes that your team makes doesn’t yield a positive result. Your staff will be put on the defensive and will strive to justify their actions to you. Instead, praise the slightest improvement and every improvement an individual makes. Encourage growth, and if you must correct a member of your team, start with appreciation and praise of what they are doing right before calling attention to their mistake indirectly (start swapping “but” and “and” when delivering critical feedback: “You were able to turn around that exam room so quickly, and next time I bet you’ll even have time for a quick sweep too”).
2. Support growth and challenge your staff
Most people want to outdo others and even compete with themselves to be the best at what they do.
“The way to get things done is to stimulate competition. I do not mean in a sordid, money-getting way, but in the desire to excel.” – Charles Schwab
Encourage members of your team to grow by providing learning opportunities that can give them the chance to prove their self-worth, excel at their profession, and make work more exciting and interesting. Combining that with friendly competition can motivate staff to put more thought and value into the work they do.
3. Appeal to nobler motives
To see a change in your staff, appeal to their nobler motives. They work in veterinary care because they love animals; it is at their core to feel that they are doing some good by helping to heal the dog, cat, horse, etc. Most people want to fulfill their obligations and be honest… if you talk to them as caring and committed members of your team, they will respond by seeking to uphold that good opinion, rather than feeling reprimanded when spoken to like they were not giving adequate care to their patients.
4. The desire to be important
Don’t forget that you couldn’t run your practice without the help of your team. When you show sincere appreciation for what they do for you, you are meeting their most fundamental need: the desire to be important.
“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” – William James
When you don’t take your staff for granted, and take the time to vocalize how much you appreciate their work, you can change their perspective on what they do, drive them to be the best version of themselves, and improve their motivation on the job.
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