We live in an Information Age - I offer you the Information "About Anger"
Rest is "Up To You"


 Can Make Your Blood Boil
Donít Let Them Get To You

 Dr. Madan L. Kharť
 (First Published In 2004)



Are there difficult staff members in your veterinary hospital?  Maybe not. But from a statistical probability point of view, there is a possibility that you might have one or a few difficult persons on your staff and you donít even know it.  You might say, so what if I do have a couple of difficult staff members?  There are difficult pets, difficult clients, difficult spouses and relatives, difficult children, difficult friends, and sometimes even a difficult life.  So what else is new? 

I agree with you.  As long as difficult entities do not encroach on your sanity, professionalism, personal life, and most important, your livelihood-the business of veterinary medicine. 

Why should one pay attention to difficult staff members?  Because they can create misunderstandings, miscommunication, loss of productivity, loss of morale, loss of clients, and downright loss of revenue.  They can make your or other staff membersí blood boil, making you so angry you might have an urge to strangle them.  They raise your blood pressure and lower your immune system. One can ignore and tolerate these negative situations to a certain extent.  However, in todayís litigious society, one must not tolerate and cannot afford to get into lawsuits, directly or indirectly initiated or ignited by one of these difficult staff members.  Remember, it only takes one to bring down the house. 

Therefore, itís of paramount importance for the veterinarian-owner or manager to recognize, identify, and handle the difficult staff members in your veterinary hospital.  Also, if you are a victimized coworker, you should also learn how to recognize and handle them. 

There are ten different breeds of difficult staff members:

1. Gossipmonger
2. Complainer
3. Snoop   
4. Intellectual Thief
5. Blabbermouth
6. Best friend
7. Slanderer
8. Back Stabber
9. Clinger
10. Snitch


We thrive on news and information, but to put it politely, we are a micro-caucus unit of a gossip culture.  So itís no surprise that there is a gossiper in every veterinary hospital who has a direct connection with the chief veterinarian, manager, or the hospitalís grapevine.  This person always has a desire to share the scoop with others.  As you know, most gossip is hurtful and is not entirely true. And the gossip becomes more dangerous if it completes its circle.  Consider the scenario of unsubstantiated gossip regarding a staff member or a client.   


Do you remember the kid Mikey in the Life commercial?  Yes, there are people who believe that misery loves company.  And they can never be happy no matter what.  As a matter of fact, theyíre not happy unless they are miserable.  These staff members are vocal, loud, disruptive, donít consider the consequences and they arenít afraid of anything.  The most dangerous thing that they do is lower other staff membersí morale.  They spread negativity around while using you or someone as a sounding board. 


This kind of person wants to know everything and anything that goes on in the veterinary hospital, whether it is about a colleague, client, or pet.  It doesnít matter whether itís their responsibility or business to know it, but they make it their business to know everything, whether it is about your work, your personal life, or your financial matters. 

You will note that some people may possess several of these characteristics. Consider the dangerous impact of a person who is a snoop, a gossiper, and a complainer.  Yes, there are people like this.  One hospital went through hell when there was a rumor circulating about why a certain technician gets a higher salary than others do.  I will leave it up to your imagination.


These are one of the most dangerous and difficult coworkers.  They are more dangerous because they are very difficult to spot.  They donít steal drugs, they donít steal equipment, they donít steal supplies or anything tangible, but they will steal your ideas and accomplishments and pass them off as their own, depriving others of the credit.


Whether you feel like talking or not, this person is always there, bending your ear. If you donít listen to them they will also try to make you feel guilty and take advantage of you being nice.  They will raise your blood pressure by their constant babbling.  They will make you forget what you were doing, make you lose your focus and concentration.  They will put you behind in your work responsibilities and then youíll get blamed for it. 


You are subjected to all the gory details of this personís personal life, whether you want to know it or not, and he or she doesnít mind hearing about the personal details of your life.  No subject is off limits to this type of person, including intimate details about their spouse, visits to the gynecologist, proctologist, etc.


The slanderer strives to gain professional rewards as well as personal satisfaction in discrediting coworkers by spreading gossip, half-truths and outright lies.  This person pretends to be your friend, hoping you will confide something that can be used against you.  However, unlike the Best Friend, they never reveal anything about themselves.


He smiles in your face, just like the Slanderer.  The back stabber always has an agenda, and will do whatever it takes to achieve his goals.  He doesnít care who he takes down along the way.


The clinger considers the hospital staff as one big happy family and promotes get-togethers outside of the work environment.  Clingers usually donít have their own personal life or family, and will frequently suggest going out for a drink after work or to make plans for weekend activities.  The next thing you know, theyíre showing up uninvited at your house just in time for dinner every night.


The snitch makes it his or her business to know everybodyís business and then reports everything to the owner or manager.  This person may even set the trap by initiating the conversation and sharing a confidence.  For example, she may badmouth the boss, and when you agree and share your own story, she relates YOUR story to the boss.  Since she doesnít share her part of the conversation, you look bad and she ends up smelling like a rose.

You probably recognize at least one or two of these characters.  So the question is how do you handle these difficult employees, coworkers, or staff members? 


Once you spot them, get rid of them.  Yes you heard me right.  Because the mindset of these difficult people is very negative, whether itís due to their past or current situation, and depending on their psychological, social, and environmental influence. Their negativity may be extremely deep rooted.  It took many years to build up. 

If you have a bleeding heart, itís possible that you might be torn between rehabilitating a troubled staff member and firing him or her.  Well I will just tell you one thing.  There is an old saying.  The longer you wait, the harder it gets.

So unless you are a big corporation and can spend the extra money to rehabilitate them, you should not keep them around.

But before firing your problem staff member, please think it over several times and ask yourself a few questions, including, will the fired problem employee become a problem for you, socially, professionally, or legally? 

Just keep in mind that one must take every precaution when asking them to leave.  You might give them several weeks or even a month or two of severance pay.  Be sure to follow each and every guideline for terminating an employee.  And before you do, you should also make sure that your house is clean.  Donít give any ammunition to the disgruntled employee to fire back at you.


a. If you encounter a gossipy person, ignore.  Keep the gossip to yourself.  Donít help spread the fire. 

b. If somebody is a complainer, keep your mouth shut.  Just listen to him or her.  Let them vent their problems, but donít join in.  Sooner or later, you will be of no use to that complainer and then you will be left alone.  Avoid nosy workers.  Donít share your or other peopleís information with them.  Should they try to cross the line, first inform them in a very friendly manner that they are crossing the line and tell them if they donít stop, you will take appropriate action.

c. Stay clear of the intellectual thieves.  Deal with them in a professional manner.  Evaluate what you say before you say it, always keeping in the back of your mind that your ideas might be stolen.  Be on guard.  Donít try to be a showoff. 

Donít let these difficult coworkers push your buttons or lure you into participating in their negativity, where you become an active component in fueling the fire.  You must remember that difficult people have their own psychological problems. They may be lonely, deprived of appreciation, and are looking for someone to validate them.  They are just looking for someone to listen to them.  If in your judgment you feel the person belongs to this group, itís okay to try to be sympathetic, extend a helping hand and to be kind and understanding.  However you must be cautious and neutral at the same time. 

One has to remember that even though these staff members are difficult to work with, they are members of the team.  And from time to time, everyone can have difficult moments.  You can try to help them, or you can ignore them, bite your tongue, live with it, and be happy at your job.