Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald: Nip it in the bud

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Apr 27, 2009
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Nip it in the bud

We all have feelings. What’s more, people in our profession did not get where they are easily. We had to work for it. We are proud of our achievements, and believe it or not, veterinarians and veterinary technicians have egos! Even if we practice into our 90s, we can still get our feelings hurt.

The veterinary workplace is a pressure cooker. Sick animals, worried clients, money concerns, tired doctors, and overworked technicians add to already existing stressors. The perception that other staff members think you are not carrying your fair share of the workload or think you are doing inferior work can be incredibly hurtful. Usually, this comes to us third-hand, a typical she-said-you-said scenario. Often, this is not at all what was said, and the whole episode balloons way out of proportion to what really happened. To complicate matters, you—with your feelings hurt and blood in your eye—charge into the fray bent on upholding your honor and reputation. However, instead of vindication, what typically happens is that you make matters worse and the feelings of others are equally hurt.

What can we do to defuse sensitive situations in the workplace and keep the bull out of the china shop? One word: communication. Go to the person allegedly badmouthing you. In a nonconfrontational way, with just you and the other person involved, present your side of the situation and explain why his or her talking about you hurt your feelings. Do this constructively and explain that one of the reasons it hurt is that you respect him or her and value his or her work habits. Nine out of 10 times, the person will explain that what happened was not at all his or her intention. Often he or she will admit to having had little or no idea of what was going on.

Nip potential damaging interpersonal interactions early. If they are left to go on, they blossom into time-consuming (time-wasting) distractions. Approach people directly and perfect a nonconfrontational professional style that conveys to others your own feelings but also that you are aware of their feelings and that you value working with them. In this way, you will acknowledge their strengths and contributions and not come across as a thin-skinned whiner. By handling the matter in this fashion, you may even forge a better friendship and build a stronger relationship. Do not let things fester at work. Nip things in the bud early. Also, confront problems not people.

See you next week, Kev