Welcome to the all-new Vetlearn

  • Vetlearn is becoming part of NAVC VetFolio.
    Starting in January 2015, Compendium and
    Veterinary Technician articles will be available on
    NAVC VetFolio. VetFolio subscribers will have
    access to not only the journals, but also:
  • Over 500 hours of CE
  • Community forums to discuss tough cases
    and networking with your peers
  • Three years of select NAVC Conference
  • Free webinars for the entire healthcare team

To access Vetlearn, you must first sign in or register.


  Sign up now for:
Become a Member

Practice Management

What Every Team Member Should Know About Practice Management

by Sheila Grosdidier, BS, RVT, MCP
    Medical team

    Ask anyone who has worked for someone for a while and they will quickly agree that nothing compares to having a wonderful boss at work. Several studies recently completed by the American Management Association demonstrate that having a good relationship with a manager was a key element in the retention of employees. The staff member who feels ignored, unchallenged, unacknowledged and taken for granted will typically do just enough to get by - creating a cycle that further distances the employee from their employer.

    As an employee, it often feels as though there is little control over how you interact with your boss. Fortunately, there are a variety of options available to improve the working relationship and they can be implemented from the employee's side. While we cannot control the behavior of our boss, we can choose how we will respond and how we will proceed. By deciding to manage your manager, you have begun a process that enhances your work environment, increases your opportunity to be successful in your position and reduces the elements of frustration associated with a negative boss/employee relationship. Here are some options for effectively managing your employer relationship:

    Time It Right

    When you need to interact with your boss, be knowledgeable about the best time to accomplish this task so that they can give you the attention you need. Trying to speak with someone when it's time to go home, when a staff meeting has just ended and everyone is asking for something, or during peak appointment times can diminish their ability to stay focused. It may not be possible to know when there is an abundance of activities taking place but be mindful of choosing a time that works for both of you. Ask for 10 minutes of time and then stay within those 10 minutes to demonstrate your consideration of their busy schedule.

    It's All About Style

    What does your boss prefer? Do they like face to face meetings or notes? Do they prefer for you to set up an appointment or is their door always open? Remember that even if they do have an open door policy, they appreciate you being mindful of their time. Does your boss prefer some small talk to begin a discussion or are they a "get to the point" kind of person? Think about your interactions in the past and consider the elements of interactions that went well, what made them work?

    Be Proactive, Understand Your Boss

    • What goals does your boss have for the practice?
    • What is important?
    • Determine what your boss's responsibilities are
    • Learn their communication style
    • Focus on what you have in common

    It is essential to form a connection to your boss. What are their values? The closer your ideas, suggestions and projects connect to their values, the greater your chance of being successful. Don't be hesitant to discuss how your idea or project is in this alignment and illustrate how it will support those values.

    Your Eye on the Ball

    What is happening in the clinic right now? Are you understaffed, over budget or being swamped with hospital cases? The better you understand the pressures your boss is facing, the more in tune you can be in determining how and when you should ask for another issue to be added to the load. You can also use this strategy to understand if your idea will help in resolving any current challenges. Also, the best employees understand that when presenting a problem it is also crucial to suggest a resolution. Using this approach to problems demonstrates that you are interested in working out problems, not just pointing out problems.

    Getting Your Ideas Heard

    You have this great idea on how to improve staff scheduling but what can you do to improve the chances that your idea will be implemented?

    1. Practice stating your idea in one sentence. Be clear and succinct, you can add detail later but remember to start with the bottom line.
    2. Make a list of benefits that are straightforward and in line with your boss's values. Keep the list non-personal. It may be about Jim and Betty but, more importantly, it's about improving efficiency and stability. Many bosses need to see the solution instead of hearing about how everyone is squabbling over the schedule.
    3. Be sure to point out where the challenges will be in implementing your plan and how you will resolve those challenges. Position these points in a positive light. There are always some sticking points in an idea and acknowledging them is the first part of reducing their impact.
    4. Identify the next step. How will you proceed to implement your plan? Your boss may want to suggest this next step, be sure that his or her ideas are melded into the plan. Take advantage of their expertise and consider that their input improves the success rate of your plan. There are a lot of good ideas but it's the follow-through to completion that really demonstrates your ability and value.
    5. Highlight the key points and repeat them back to your boss to focus on what has been decided and what the next steps will be from this starting point. This is essential to clarify points and assure that you are in agreement. Identify a specific date for follow up and put your plan on a timeline for completion.
    6. A few days after your meeting, consider sending a quick note or having a follow-up conversation to apprise them of how the plan is proceeding and give positive feedback on the process itself. Bosses are people, too, and they appreciate knowing you value their input and support.
    7. Make it happen, you will get more opportunities to complete projects and implement ideas (and increase your financial value) when you follow through on your plan and make ideas a reality.
    8. Let your boss know when the project is completed, what you did and how it worked out. It's not about patting yourself on the back but about demonstrating the value of the process and your ability to be successful managing projects. There is no harm in letting someone know what you did. The harm is in feeling unappreciated because you didn't give someone the opportunity to appreciate your skill.

    It's Always About Communication

    We may think we are good at communicating but, all too often, we find that the message we send is received very differently from our intention. That's because all of us have our own filters for how we absorb communication. So, how do we manage this common communication gap? When in doubt, over-communicate. It's better to make sure your boss understands what is happening than to guess or just assume. Here are some methods for improving your communication:

    Enhancing Communication

    • Actively listen, really listen, use your ears more than your mouth.
    • Be sensitive to body language, does it match the verbal message?
    • Be positive, focus on common goals
    • Keep personality out of the issue, make it about issues and not people
    • Ask questions and clarify for agreement
    • Be clear and concise in communication
    • Do what you say, say what you do
    • Avoid the "shoot from the lip" response, carefully consider your replies

    If you find yourself chanting the mantra, "My boss doesn't have a clue what I do around here," it's time to ask, "Why not?" If your boss is not taking the steps to build a two-way street of communication, maybe it's time for you to take the initiative. Ask for a short, 15 minute meeting every two weeks to "touch base" and share what is happening in the clinic. Make this a private, scheduled time during which you will not be disturbed (yes, this can be a challenge) and prepare an agenda of what you want to discuss. Share this list with your boss in advance so they can see your organizational skills and interest in maximizing their time. It also shows you are interested in performance and not about complaining.

    What Do You Do Anyway?

    As part of your career, it is essential to keep track of your accomplishments. Do this proactively, as you never know when it will come in handy. Those handy times can be when it's time to discuss a raise or when you are considering writing a resume and testing the job market. Once a week, make a list of your accomplishments; put it in a journal, your computer or your calendar, whichever works best for you. By doing this on a weekly basis, you are reducing the chance of forgetting all the great things you have completed. While you are at it, keep a "way to go" file with all your letters of appreciation from clients and make notes of positive feedback from co-workers and clients. Also include any continuing education programs you have completed. This is particularly helpful if your clinic does performance reviews and you have the opportunity to fill out an evaluation. What a great time to illustrate your value!

    You are the person charting your path to a successful career, it is up to you to manage your manager and develop skills that augment your value. This skill is essential to flourishing in the veterinary clinic and to maintain a satisfactory working relationship with your boss. No matter what the situation is at present, you have the option to re-design your connection with your boss. It's your choice, how will you proceed?


    Did you know... Telemedicine dates back to the 1900s, when telephones came into use. By the late 1990s, the application was used heavily in human medicine as a result of high-speed Internet connections.Read More

    These Care Guides are written to help your clients understand common conditions. They are formatted to print and give to your clients for their information.

    Stay on top of all our latest content — sign up for the Vetlearn newsletters.
    • More