January 2018



Phone (908) 823-4607- info@veterinarybusinessadvisors.com

Protecting Your Practice from Toxic Teams
"You know when a veterinary practice is toxic. You can almost smell it, that tang of adrenaline from spiking anger. You feel it. Your stomach sinks when you walk in the door and you sense the tension hanging in the air. Worse yet? You're fully aware that the toxicity can lead to bad medical decisions resulting from spite or exhaustion or vindictiveness. The fantasies run through your head when you think about quitting - or finally getting up the courage to fire the bad apple that's ruining the bunch. It all feels like a sickly gas floating through every client interaction, every treatment area procedure and every breakroom conversation."
The article "Toxic Teams," published in dvm360.com in February 2017, bluntly lays out what a toxic veterinary practice can feel like. Written by Rachael Zimlich, a registered nurse and journalist, the article also shares the dire potential consequences that can occur if a toxic environment is not addressed: bad medical decisions arising from spite, exhaustion or vindictiveness.
The article is also chock-full of responses to questions about the effects of toxicity in the veterinary workplace. They include the following results:
  • 93% of people surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that communication issues can affect patient care
  • 95% of people surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that communication issues can affect client care
  • 79% of people surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that team conflict can affect patient care
  • 90% of people surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that team conflict can affect client care
  • 78% of people surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that communication issues can change decisions about which doctors and team members see particular cases
  • 78% of people agreed or strongly agreed that communication issues make it difficult to agree to medical protocols
  • 76% of people agreed or strongly agreed that team conflict can change decisions about which doctors and team members see particular cases
  • 68% of people agreed or strongly agreed that team conflicts make it difficult to agree to medical protocols
So, how can your practice fight back against a toxic team environment? Here are six steps to take.
The Internet, You and Your Employees

Practices should have clear written policies so everyone is aware of what they can do online during work hours and what is always inappropriate.  

Telemedicine may come to mind when you think about internet legal issues that can affect veterinary practices. However, it's not the only issue. Let's examine three others.

Social Media "Research"

Social media makes finding information about people, including those you are considering hiring, so easy. But is searching on social media platforms for information about job candidates legitimate? As with most broad questions posed about the ever-evolving internet, the answer is "It depends."
Researching job applicants' social media profiles is not, in general, illegal, but don't do so haphazardly. Instead, create a clear written policy about which sites will be reviewed to find clearly defined pieces of information. Also determine who will review these profiles and what information will be housed in your records. To add a layer of protection to your social media policy, consider having a person who does not have the ability to hire - a non-decision maker - do the research.
Make sure you follow the policy consistently for all candidates, not only certain ones. Acting inconsistently when an issue involves a protected class could open you up to a discrimination lawsuit. A protected class is any group of people with common characteristics who have legal protections from discrimination because of those characteristics. These characteristics include race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, pregnancy status, disabilities and more.
Here's how something could quickly go wrong. Let's say you obtain a piece of information that theoretically could lead to your not hiring a candidate. Then let's say you don't hire that candidate, but this piece of information had no bearing on your decision. The candidate could claim a connection between your hiring decision and an employment or labor law violation.
Here's another issue to consider: If your investigation includes a review of the job applicant's credit history, financial history, driver's license verification or other pieces of related information, you may run afoul of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.
In This Issue
Alert: I-9 Compliance  

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has indicated that they will be increasing the level of enforcement of I-9 compliance by four to five times.  Be sure your practice is in compliance.  If you have questions about I-9 compliance, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

Contact us for more info!
Always Having People Problems?
Human Resource Concierge Service
Our concierge service allows you to have HR Services on an as-needed basis.  This flexibility enables you to grow and add our Professional Services when they make the most sense.  This cost effective model allows you to avoid taking on full-time commitments the Practice may not yet be ready for.  
Service will include:
  • 2 hours of HR service per month
  • VBA's monthly newsletter
  • VIP status - top of the priority list when you call for help
  • 10% discount on all additional HR Services and all VBA Products
$375/mo (paid in two installments)

VBA Extern:
Adrienne Bush 
Adrienne Bush is a fourth-year veterinary student at the VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine where she was president of Omega Tau Sigma, a veterinary service fraternity that focuses on the development and ethical growth of well-rounded veterinarians, for two years. Adrienne is interested in practicing small animal medicine and naturopathic medicine but also has a passion for practice management and veterinary ethics. She hopes to focus her time at VBA learning about contract negotiations, improving the client veterinary bond and the emergency of holistic medicine in practice. As a retired collegiate swimmer and ocean lifeguard, Adrienne enjoys staying active and recently completed her first triathlon. In her free time, Adrienne loves spending time with family and friends, cooking and winning at board games. Adrienne graduates in May of 2018 and hopes to pursue a career at a large private practice that she could eventually buy into.
Has #MeToo affected your practice? 



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