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Veterinarian Technician November 2009 (Vol 30, No 11)

Dealing with Differences

    Regardless of your position in the veterinary practice, your success depends on working with the people around you. This can be difficult when there are a lot of different personalities within your team. Chances are you won't automatically "click" with everyone. So how do you deal with differences for the ultimate success of your practice and your own personal and professional career satisfaction?

    Common Ground
    It is easier to relate to someone, and work through any differences that may arise, if the two of you can find common ground. When a new person joins a team, it is a good idea for management to post a little blurb about the person on the employee bulletin board or in the employee newsletter. The blurb can mention the new person's pets, hobbies, background, etc, and you may realize that you share a hobby, went to the same college, or are fans of the same sports teams. This can help get the relationship off to a positive start.

    Benefit of the Doubt
    When a new person joins the team, it is always best to give them the benefit of the doubt, rather than automatically thinking the worst about him or her. If something leads you down a negative path, resist going there and head down a positive path instead. Typically, people don't purposefully plan to drive you crazy or get under your skin. Consider that the new person could be acting a certain way because something totally unrelated to you has affected their mood.

    Courtesy and Respect
    You didn't learn "please" and "thank you" just to impress your parents. These gestures of common courtesy demonstrate respect for others and should not go unspoken. If you need help, ask rather than tell. If you see someone going out of their way to help, even if it's not directly helping you, thank them on behalf of the team. Focus on coming from a place of mutual respect and common courtesy and you will usually receive respect and courtesy in return.

    Face to Face
    Even under the best circumstances, disagreements can and will occur. This happens even if you are courteous, give the person the benefit of the doubt, and find common ground. Disagreements can also get blown out of proportion, regardless of how they are handled. Speaking with your friends about an incident with a coworker will not accomplish anything and is tantamount to gossip, not a good thing in a professional workplace.

    When a disagreement occurs, speak with the other person face-to-face and attempt to clear the air. Most of the time simple misunderstandings or differences in perception can lead to growing negative feelings. If you address the problem immediately, it does not have time to grow from a mole hill into a mountain. Sometimes, the situation is bigger than the people immediately involved, and the disagreement should be mediated by someone in management. A manager can help keep things respectful, step in if needed, and witness the conclusion. However, it is not always appropriate to ask your manager to speak to someone on your behalf. It is important to take charge of your own problems, even when they involve a disagreement at work.
    A team is made richer by the variety of people and personalities of which it is composed. The world would be a boring place if everyone was the same. Although we are all individuals and have our own needs and wants, we need to come together for the common cause of helping animals and the people who love them. If that remains our common goal, we can deal with our differences in a positive way.

    Tip: Nothing erodes the bond between team members more than gossip. Even if you try your best to not participate, allowing it to continue makes you part of the problem. The next time someone on the team comes to you to share their gripes about another team member, there is an easy and respectful way to not take part. Simply say, "I don't feel comfortable talking about it without him or her being here to present the other side of the story." If a gossiper learns that you are not going to be a part of the drama, they will eventually get the hint and leave you out. If enough people on the team follow this mantra, the gossipers won't stand a chance in your practice!

    NEXT: Editor's Letter — Looking Inward

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