Workplace conflict is inevitable. How you manage it and interact with others in the hospital are paramount. Workplace bullying is a real thing. Unfortunately, it is rampant within our profession.
I got a private message from a veterinary technician who had recently started a new job. She was being ostracized by the other veterinary technicians. She was being kind, helpful, and trying to fit into the new job. She was seeking advice on what she should do.
Now, for a moment, put yourself in her position. How nervous are you when you start a new job- especially if you are just out of school or don’t have years of experience under your belt? We have all been there.
You are now thrown into what is a very close-knit crew, trying to do a good job using your skills while trying to learn a new system, and experiencing other technicians making you feel less than welcome. In a busy practice this causes an overwhelming feeling of stress. This is absolutely unacceptable and soul-crushing.
Take a step back and look at your environment. How do people interact within your work team? If the team starts to fall apart, the practice and patient care are going to suffer. Your boss is not going to be happy if this occurs. What can you do to help resolve work-place conflict, even if you are not directly involved?
- Be honest with yourself and ask yourself if you are treating all others with respect in your work environment. What is your personality type and how does this play into it? The Five Technicians You Will Meet At the Clinic- which one are you?
- Are you helpful and eager or do you avoid certain people or tasks? Work life is easier when you jump in to help someone.
- Your skills and positive attitude are the key to success. If you have the experience, please extend your hand to those with less experience. Just think, if you teach someone how to do something properly, this will save you time in the future, they can now help you when needed, and will build confidence and respect between both of you. If you don't have experience, ask for help. "Vicky, I know you are very good at placing these saphenous IV catheters, would you mind showing me how you do it this time?"
- When you walk into the hospital, everyone there is on your team. Don’t like someone? It really doesn’t matter. In life, we will have to work with or interact with others who are different than us, have different skill sets than us, or even annoy us on a personal level. This has to be left at the doorstep. This is just part of being an adult and being a professional.
- Fight negativity with positivity. Even if you don’t personally have conflict, but see others having issues, be positive. If a co-worker says something negative to you about another co-worker, say something positive. This may help them so see the person in a different light. Don’t feed off any negative energy and definitely don't take part in gossip.
- If you are being bullied or ostracized, try talking one-on-one with the person. Bullies don't like being confronted directly, but being called out on the behavior in a polite manner may cause them to reflect on their actions and hurt it is causing you.
- Be realistic. Because everyone's personality is different, you have to determine if there really is a conflict or you are just being sensitive. Some people are more introverted, and very cut and dry in personality. They come in, do their job, and don't socialize much with others. There is nothing wrong with that. Are they just not as social with you and this makes you uncomfortable, or are they actually being disrespectful? Are they treating other people different than you? Is it because they don't know you yet, or is there a conflict? There is a big difference here and may take some reflection to figure it out.
When you treat others kindly, with respect, and are helpful, that will come back to you ten-fold. If there is conflict that cannot be resolved between co-workers, then you will need to have a meeting with your supervisor or boss.
Team meetings are a great way to re-iterate these points and get everyone back on the same page. None of us are perfect, so any feelings of superiority or entitlement are unjustified. It can be very hard to be the bigger person, but you can do it and the reward will be great. Even in adulthood, the Golden Rule still applies!
For further reading on bullying in the veterinary community check out:
- WVC 2017: Recognizing and Addressing Workplace Bullying
- When Techs Hurt Techs: Bullying and Horizontal Violence in Veterinary Medicine- from Clinician's Brief (log-in required/free to set up account)