Toxic behaviors have deep-seated impacts on our well-being in veterinary medicine. Systematic changes, clear expectations, workload balancing, and candid communication are crucial to crafting a productive and safer work environment. The episode, featuring return guest Dr. Marie Holowaychuk, highlights the influence of individual attitudes on a team's environment and dives deeply into the role that leadership needs to play in creating a safer and more open veterinary workplace.
More about Dr. Holowaychuk!
Dr. Marie Holowaychuk is a board-certified small animal emergency and critical care specialist and passionate advocate for veterinary team wellbeing. An avid writer, podcaster, and researcher, Dr. Holowaychuk has authored dozens of articles and recorded a multitude of podcast interviews related to personal and professional wellbeing. She hosts the Reviving Vet Med podcast and writes a monthly blog and newsletter on pertinent issues related to veterinary mental health and wellbeing.
Dr. Holowaychuk lives in Calgary where she occasionally locums in private referral practice and as a specialist teleconsultant. As a yoga and meditation teacher and wellness coach, she facilitates wellbeing workshops and retreats for veterinary clinics and organizations and offers individual and group coaching and online programs for veterinary team members. She recently launched a new website containing wellbeing resources for veterinary professionals.
Previous Conversations with Dr. Holowaychuk regarding mental health and suicide prevention:
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Instagram: @marieholowaychuk or @revivingvetmed
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Do you feel like it's possible to find joy and positive change within veterinary medicine? Are you looking for a community that's striving for fulfillment rather than perfection? Hey there, I'm Dr Stacey Cordivano. I want veterinarians to learn to be happier, healthier, wealthier and more grateful for the lives that we've created. On this podcast, I will speak with outside-of-the-box thinkers to hear new ideas on ways to improve our day-to-day lives. Welcome to the whole veterinarian. I'm so excited to welcome back a returning guest today. Dr Marie Holowaychuck is a board-certified small animal emergency and critical care specialist and a passionate advocate for veterinary team well-being. As a yoga and meditation teacher and a wellness coach, she facilitates workshops and retreats for veterinary clinics and organizations and offers individual and group coaching and online programs for veterinary team members. She recently launched a new website, revivingvetmed. com, which contains wellness resources for veterinary professionals, and is the host of the revivingvetmed podcast, which offers practical tools and easily applicable tips for burnout prevention and workplace well-being. I can't recommend that podcast enough. I hope you enjoyed today's episode and if you want to check out our previous conversations, I'll make sure to link them in the show notes.Platinum Performance:
Platinum Performance is proud to support the whole veterinarian. For nearly 30 years we've stood beside veterinarians with advanced nutrition for the health of your patients and practice At Platinum Performance. We know the power of nutrition starts within.Stacey Cordivano:
Hi Marie, Thank you so much for joining me again. How are you?Marie Holowaychuk:
Hey, stacey, I'm great. It's really good to see you again.Stacey Cordivano:
You too, so you've joined me before and we've talked about mental health and well-being and its effects on veterinarians. Today we wanted to dive into a related but slightly different topic, which is the idea of workplace toxicity, how it affects employees, what leaders need to do, and we're just going to dive into all of it. So thanks again for being here to talk about that, and would you define workplace toxicity, because I think we can all have a sense of it, but I'd like to get us all on the same page.Marie Holowaychuk:
Yeah, sure, so there isn't a great definition out there. So I think if you maybe, if you Google on Wikipedia, you might be able to come up with something that's meaningful. I think we can all imagine walking into a workplace and just feeling the tension and that is, in essence, what a lot of researchers will describe it as a situation that's feeling very tense and uncomfortable for various different reasons, which we'll talk about amongst those staff members, as well as broken communication. So it becomes this vicious cycle where people aren't communicating well or they're avoiding communication because of certain toxic behaviors or toxic circumstances, and then that further perpetuates a disconnect and tension between the team because we're not talking and we're not communicating.Stacey Cordivano:
And then, from your understanding, is this often divided into support staff versus veterinarians, or do you see it as like an entire clinic or practice problem?Marie Holowaychuk:
Yeah. So I think when in the research, when people have looked at toxicity in veterinary practices, what they have found is that there's two main contributors there's toxic behaviors and there is factors that contribute to the toxic environment. So from a toxic environment perspective, even having like front staff versus back staff conflict, that can lead to a toxic environment. You can also have toxicity just within certain groups within the hospital, and so I think people have probably heard the term microculture before. So we have the overall culture of the hospital and then we can have the microcultures within different groups or even just within different dynamics within the hospital and those can carry their own weight and issues with them as well.Stacey Cordivano:
Yeah, got it Okay. So what are some contributors that you would say add to an environment of toxicity?Marie Holowaychuk:
Yeah, so you know, a lot of this work comes from focus group research out of the Ontario Veterinary College. So here in Canada there was a group that interviewed different individuals from companion animal practices across Ontario. They talked to every member of the team. So they talked to, you know, tas and kennel attendants, technicians, and to veterinarians and practice managers, and specifically with a toxic environment. They identified different factors that seem to contribute and one of those factors and I'll give an example as well is changing the rules. So this in essence happens when you have different policies that apply to different people. So I'll use an example that I have been exposed to working in specialty practice, where I've worked in a specific corporate on practice where they have a uniform policy and the policy states you must wear, you know, our color scrubs with our specific logo showing on some spot of your scrubs. And what they found in their hospital is that the vet texts are really adherent to this rule. They show up with their scrubs, they don't deviate. They do deviate. They're actually pulled aside and told you know, you need to change. This doesn't adhere to policy. And what they've been seeing is that the specialists at the hospital have said forget these, you know gross corporate scrubs, we're going to buy our fancy fig scrubs, which is like, of course, all the rage now. I'm still wearing my old school scrubs. I haven't yet gone over to the fig side, but this has created a lot of tension amongst the team because the vet texts are looking at the specialist and saying, well, why aren't they held to the same uniform rules that we are? And it's created a tremendous amount of, you know, just contributed to tension and toxicity within the team. So that would be an example of changing the rules. Another thing that we can see is that turnover, of course, can have a huge impact on toxicity, and there's many different reasons for that. I think sometimes what happens with turnover is that it's not just that we're losing someone and having to bring on someone new and adjust to them and, you know, perhaps pick up the slack as they're learning and adjusting to their new job, but very often what we're seeing in practices is because we're so short-staffed right now is that many practices are just forging ahead despite turnover, so they're not actually replacing those team members and this leads to another contributor to toxicity which is imposing unrealistic expectations on the team. So you know, we've all been in situations where someone doesn't show up for their shift, someone's sick. This happened all the time during COVID, where it was like someone's in isolation, someone has a child that's sick, they have to stay at home, and we forged through that, you know, to the best of our ability. What we're seeing now is it's just kind of become this perpetual. You know, short staffing within hospitals and that's led to a lot of, again, tension and exhaustion. Quite frankly, among team members and I think you and I both know I can certainly attest to this I don't show up as my best self when I'm feeling exhausted and super stretched and trying to do the work of three people, and so that can often then lead to these undesirable behaviors that happen. You know, we get snippy communication breaks down and then it just, yeah, becomes this vicious cycle where people are like, well, I'm going to take a day off too, because I'm tired of, you know, doing this really challenging work. So you know, those are just a few different things. A couple of other factors that they identified as well in that research was the sense of not feeling appreciated. A lot of the times this comes down to our leadership team, whereby team members, especially if they have been doing the work of two people for, you know, months at a time, they start to feel like what am I doing Like, why am I pushing myself over the edge for this job and what's in it for me? And you know they start to question am I getting compensated appropriately? Are the benefits worthwhile? They start to look elsewhere and look at other practices and other individuals and start to compare, and that can lead to a lot of resentment. I've spoken with a lot of team members that have shared, you know, my practice has an ad open for a new role and they're offering more than I'm currently making, and I've been here for, you know, almost 10 years now and again that just creates a lot of frustration and discourse among the team, you know. And then, last but not least, we have lack of consequences, which can lead to a toxic environment. So this is where individuals behave in a way that is not appropriate or, you know, maybe they're, they're perpetually showing up late or whatever it might be, and they're not held accountable. So again, this comes down to ineffective leadership, some names. That comes down to practices that don't have good norms for behavior established. It's not actually clear to the team members what's expected of them, and so it becomes kind of a free for all. People are just doing their thing. They're not being held accountable. Other team members are witnessing this behavior and they're thinking well, why am I showing up on time, why am I behaving myself? Why am I being respectful and kind and communicative? And then you can imagine, it just kind of escalates from there. I'm sure we can think of many, many other contributing factors, but those are certainly the big things that have been identified to date in the research that contribute to a toxic environment.Stacey Cordivano:
Great. Okay, there's so many things swirling in my head because so much of that is so interrelated and you know I'll come back to leadership. But you know, especially with the no consequences, like the word resentment just like pops into my head like that is a negative emotion and the start of so many breakdowns. It's also so intimately tied with burnout, like the emotional exhaustion or physical exhaustion, and then the turnover. I mean it's just like one big vicious cycle. So where do people even begin to like start addressing this? Or is that where we dive into leadership, because so much of this comes from improved leadership?Marie Holowaychuk:
Yeah, well, and I want to go back to what you said, stacey, which is so important, and that's the strong tie to burnout. Because you're right, you know, you look at all these different factors, you know the changing of the rules going to create resentment, lack of consequences, not feeling appreciated, resentment, unrealistic expectations, resentment, you know. And, like you said, the emotional exhaustion, the cynicism, even feeling like people aren't being efficacious on the job, especially when our expectations aren't realistic. All those three symptoms are indicative of burnout. And it's interesting, the same group that has conducted this research has demonstrated in other studies that having these toxic environments, having this ineffective communication, these teams that are not working well together, this sense of tension and frustration on the job, is highly associated with burnout. So we know that people's burnout scores are higher when they're working in a toxic environment compared to when they're working with a healthy environment. So, yeah, what? Do we do? How do we? address this, and you know, I think a lot of this comes down to really fundamental things within the practice. So I think it's super, super important that the practice leadership whomever it might be an owner, a manager, co-owners, whomever that they really sit down and think about what sort of a culture that they want to create within their hospital or that they want to shift to within their hospital if they're moving out of a toxic culture or a toxic environment. I think it can be very helpful and I know that you've talked about this before to have really clear practice values, and not just those specific values, but what behaviors are tied to those values. Because you know, I work with a lot of practice owners who say, oh yeah, we've got our practice values and their you know, teamwork, respect, trust, you know whatever it is. Then you ask them great, you know, so what does that look like in the clinic? And they say, well, what do you mean? And so they haven't taken it to the next step. To really think about teamwork looks like I show up on time so that I'm there to help my team. If someone's sick, I might have to step in and work in someone else's role. I want to be flexible. We really iron that out, hopefully from the direction of leadership, but also with the inclusion of the team members themselves, so that they can share what they feel is reflective of that behavior versus what is not reflective of that behavior. And then that's where the holding people accountable comes in, because if you have really well established values and norms for behavior that are associated with those, yes, in some circumstances the leadership may have to hold people accountable. But it becomes so ingrained that even the team members are holding each other accountable because they, you know, believe so strongly in these values and these behaviors that they helped create, hopefully, that they're willing to stand by them and, you know, enforce them or remind people of them as well.Stacey Cordivano:
Yeah, I think the inclusion of the entire team. I mean that ties back to psychological safety, which is also intimately wrapped up in this. But it's important to note because you can't just assign a set of norms or behaviors to a team without their involvement, and I think that's probably a misstep that a lot of leaders take, because that's not easy to do. It's much easier to just write a list of things that you think are important, but taking the time to really work through it with your team, I would imagine, is so helpful. I've done it in at least mentorship groups that I work with. I mean, I don't lead big veterinary teams, but I think that walking people through that could be really helpful. Is that something that you work with teams on?Marie Holowaychuk:
Yeah, I do, and you're absolutely right. And there's so many ways that you can do this that don't come off as like the corny, like we're going to figure out our practice values and we're going to make norms for behavior. You know there's exercises where you can, as a team, you can even make it kind of competitive, but that you can brainstorm. You know, like, what is an ideal team member? What do they look like? You know everything from like how do they start their shift, how do they behave during the shift, how do they end their shift. And you know you can have a little bit of discussion about this, because there are going to be different perspectives on what an ideal team member brings into the practice and into the team. So, really, just looking at it from that perspective, you can also look at it from the lens of what sort of experience do we want for all of us? What experience do we want our clients to feel when they come into the practice? And what I've noticed with teams that I've worked with is that very often what they're trying to cultivate for the client experience mirrors what they are also collectively trying to experience as a team. Right, so you can look at it from these different lens of perspectives, and you can also do it from like a positive and a negative slant. So what is our ideal team member and what would not be, you know, an ideal situation or what would be the antithesis of that particular behavior? And I think that part, while it might seem negative and nitpicky, is really important to identify, because what one person might feel is inappropriate in the workplace, for example, language I'll use the example of language swearing, profanity, whatever Some people feel like, that's, you know, an expression of who they are and you know their way of having fun and connecting with their team and others might feel like that there's not a place for that in the veterinary workplace. So it's not that there's a right or a wrong answer. It's that we just engage in discussion as a group to come to some sort of middle ground or agreement about. Ultimately, this is what we feel comfortable with as a team, putting forward as how we want to collectively show up together.Stacey Cordivano:
Yeah, and this may be a tangent, but in my head it's related. I think that teams can also do that for client behavior, right, and then if leadership supports them through that, then it's just another way to show that they're supporting their team. Like if we've agreed a client shouldn't speak to us, this way we need to hold them accountable Because again, all of this is related to turnover, which costs money and affects how clients are satisfied or how clients are treated or patient outcomes. So it seems sort of intimately related and another kind of work, another workshop to do it would be to create norms for clients, agree?Marie Holowaychuk:
Yes, I 100 percent agree, and I think it goes back to your earlier comment on psychological safety, whereby, if we know, remember that clients are unfortunately a source of psychological harm for us in the workplace. That's the reality. I don't want to say that clients are the root of all of our issues in veterinary practice. That would be an oversimplification. But we can experience a lot of distress because of the ways in which some of our clients treat us, and so what can be very helpful for safety and well-being within the team is to know that there are these boundaries in place that we've decided collectively as a group. These behaviors are not acceptable. These are the consequences or this is the procedure that will unfold if we are to witness these behaviors, and that does provide comfort there. And to your point about turnover and everything else as well, any situation where we know that there are going to be steps taken and that there is going to be an endpoint so that this is just not left to persist, whether it be a client that is just left to their own devices to treat us however they want for however long they want, or whether it's a situation in the hospital where we find ourselves short staffed and it's just sort of like well, we've got this job opening, so we'll just wait for someone to apply and we'll keep our pulling up our bootstraps and getting the work done. Those aren't realistic nor safe situations for our team members to be in. So we want to make sure that it's clear. We will tolerate X amount of behavior for X amount of time and once a client is given however many warnings or talking to that, they will be let go from the practice. Similarly, we will work to this workload with this number of people for this many weeks or months. If we have not had this position filled by the end of next month, we will be adjusting our caseload or our appointment schedule, or whatever it is, accordingly. That gives people the guardrails to feel that they are being cared for, that their well-being matters essentially.Stacey Cordivano:
Yeah, and I have to imagine that that has been shown. I mean, this just seems like common sense, but that has been shown to increase personal engagement within the workplace, which I know is related to well-being, but also turnover and all these things that we've been talking about.Marie Holowaychuk:
Yes, 100%.Stacey Cordivano:
Yeah, okay, so those are some maybe organizational changes to consider. What are some things that individuals could consider doing for themselves as far as their roles in a toxic work environment?Marie Holowaychuk:
Yeah, so there are a few different toxic attitudes that have been identified that I think are important to touch on, and I think I have to be honest. I do believe that a lot of these toxic attitudes come out because individuals are within a toxic environment. So I don't ever want to say that this is all on the individual, to just watch their behavior and to take responsibility for the whole environment that they've created. I don't think it's that simple. I think that's very bi-directional, that these can feed off of each other. So, in the way that we've got all these factors that can lead to a toxic environment, we also have many different individual attitudes that can also perpetuate that toxic environment as well if left unaddressed. And so I think sometimes again, we don't even realize we're doing these things and that this can be impacting the team. But one of these things is wanting to be the go-to person. So we've all worked with these individuals and I kind of like being the go-to person sometimes, like I love it when people are like oh yes, you're the criticalist on duty. Today We've got this really cool case we want to talk to you about. I like it when people come to me. I also like to know that I'm helping others. I think sometimes this can become a pathology or a detriment to some individuals and some teams, where a person clings so much to being the go-to person that they almost start to hoard information or they use it as a means of keeping control over the team. So I'll use the example. I worked with a team previously that had an IT person designated on their team so the person who dealt with all the computer crashes and printer problems and everything else that might happen in this large hospital and this person prided themselves on being the go-to IT person. But what that meant was that person had all the passwords, they had all the protocols in their head, they knew everything to do in the event that there was any sort of IT crisis and nobody else had this information. And so that was a problem for this practice and it would be a problem for any practice, because the reality is what happens if something happens to that individual. So there's that piece of it and there's also the piece that we spoke before about resentment. This can lead to resentment or frustration when people feel like, a I could be doing this job myself just as well, like I don't need to go to this person. Or B if this person is a challenging person to contend with, it might feel again frustrating to always have to be going to that person and to feel like we're having to jump through hoops. And then the last piece of that is if this person really is holding on to information and just sharing with others when they feel like it's necessary to share, it just doesn't create a sense of transparency and trust within the team. So that is one of those behaviors. We also have our mood polluters on the team. These are individuals that again and I mean I gotta be honest, I'm not always rainbows and butterflies for every one of my shifts either and we also must be mindful about how our negativity can impact the team, and the research has shown that one individual's negativity has a effect that is much larger than a one to one ratio, so it really can ripple out throughout the team. So we all have bad days and we all have situations in particular that trigger our bad moods. It's important to communicate that, to honor that. I know for me, when I get really busy and when I'm feeling really stretched, I can definitely get into serious Marie work mode. You know where I tend to lose the niceties and a little bit of the like, you know, cheerful nature that I can otherwise demonstrate, and so it's important for me to share that with the team. If I'm really worried about one of my patients or if I'm feeling super stretched, or if I had a conversation with a client that was really challenging or upset me in some way, it's important to maintain that open line of communication where I might just share that with the team Again, not to vent, not to dump, not to bring them down, but to just say you know what I'm not feeling like myself. Today I'm dealing with XYZ, just so that there isn't that taking it personally. You know that people aren't like, oh my gosh, like every time I'm around, marie, I feel like I did something wrong, or you know that it just feels very stressful. So yeah, so managing our emotions, which is emotional agility.Stacey Cordivano:
Yeah, I know right, we don't all have it. We're certainly not taught it. I was going to say for me, I'm not the most vulnerable person, I tend to keep like a distance between personal problems and work, but I think it has been helpful to just, even if it's like a one liner, like my kid didn't sleep last night, like FYI, I'm not in top form today, like sometimes that's all that needs to be said. I also was reading about the mood polluters and how people were saying that one bad client interaction during the day could really mess up the whole rest of the day, and it made me think of the veterinary well-being debrief that I learned about from MentorVet. Actually. But even if it could just be a policy in place that if a really bad client interaction happened, there may be some space or somewhere in the clinic or something to kind of just work through, that it might be a one way to stop that cycle of negativity for the rest of the day, thought it just popped in my head like that would be a great plan if that happened often for people.Marie Holowaychuk:
Yeah, I think debriefs are so important. You know, again, whether you're debriefing within your little cohort that you work most closely with. It could be one other person that you feel comfortable confiding in. It could be a larger debrief, like it could be a whole team that is debriefing. You know to that point as well, I really like the idea of when we start the shift with our team, that we do have some sort of check-in. You know to your point about my kid didn't sleep last night period. You know I love like the one word check-in with the team. Like what are you bringing into the space today? You know a person might truly feel exhausted. They might be feeling stressed. Maybe they're looking down the appointment schedule and they're seeing their least favorite client and that that's already creating some anxiety for them. They might be feeling excited. They might be feeling distracted. Maybe something happened yesterday and they're kind of like niggling at them a little bit. You know there's so many things that we bring into our team and into the space and context is so important for shaping our perceptions. You know it's very easy to look at our teams and be like, well, they're in a cranky mood today or you know they're just like such a pain in the butt to work with or whatever. If we have that understanding of what they might be holding, whether it be in their personal life or even within the workspace, within the work that they're doing that day, it just helps to, you know, enhance our empathy and understanding and our compassion for each other. You know, I think same goes for our clients. When we can really understand, you know, what they've got in the background and what they're bringing into the practice as well. We can't always, you know, ask them to share that with us. We can only presume what might be happening for them. But with our teams, if we have built that trust there and that openness, again I don't advocate for like airing out all of your laundry and just spending the whole day like rehashing the argument that you had with your partner the night before. But if there is stuff that's heavily weighing on you, to just simply share that and then move on, it just gives the team a better understanding of where those mood you know shifts might be coming from.Stacey Cordivano:
Yeah, do you have a sense? I was. I spoke to someone on the podcast and he mentioned that they do a team check-in every morning and I was like shocked. I haven't worked in that many places but none of them have done that, nor do people even start at the same time. Do you have a sense of how many practices are doing a team check-in daily, even if it's like 20 minutes?Marie Holowaychuk:
Yeah, it's not many, and I recall hearing that conversation on the podcast and I was so excited because, you know, we often refer to these as team huddles or team check-ins, and I think it happens, quite honestly, more often in larger practices, whether it be within each particular service, that they're doing a little bit of like a you know, here's the day, this is what we have ahead of us, and you know, everyone kind of checks in how was your night? You know, how was your morning, whatever it is that there's, even those informal. It doesn't have to be like we're going to go around in a circle and everyone is going to share one word to describe how they feel. I mean, it can be done that way. That's definitely how I've done it when I've come on shift with people, because usually I'm walking into an ICU and I've got one or two texts. I'm working with one or two TAs, the ER doctor, maybe an intern you know there's people there and so if we have the opportunity and it feels comfortable to do that, then I will, you know, invite that share. Again, it takes a little bit of vulnerability, so I tend to be the one to go first and I always give people the option to pass. You know, if they're not feeling comfortable or confident, you know, in voicing that, then that's okay too. Very often as well, I brought like a little prompt, like a feelings wheel. I don't want to get too like into the weeds of, you know, and you don't even have to look at it as feelings. It could just be a word. You know what word best describes what I'm bringing to the team today. You know, and then just give people the comfort to say I just share with people, just say what, the first thing that pops into your head, and then that's, there's no right, or wrong answer here.Stacey Cordivano:
I love the brain, the feelings wheel, because we don't often like can't name enough feelings, so it's probably really helpful for people.Marie Holowaychuk:
Yeah, I think the average human, the most feelings they can name, is like less than 10. It's very few.Stacey Cordivano:
I think I thought I heard somewhere like three. Okay, any other thoughts for individuals to consider, not that, like you said, not that they're fully responsible, but just to be mindful of.Marie Holowaychuk:
Yeah, you know, one of the things that came up a lot in that focus group research as well was the idea of that's not my job, right? And so I think we've all been in a situation where we ourselves have been the one to say like I don't want to do that, that's not my job. You know, like I'll use the example for me it might be, you know, following up on someone's blood work that I don't know anything about, or I, you know, have no understanding of, or I know it's a really good client of internal medicine and I'm like, oh, like I don't even want to go there. That doesn't feel comfortable for me. Or even to see, like a medicine recheck, if somehow that ended up on my schedule, you know, so to feel like, well, that doesn't, that's not my job, like that's not what I'm here for. We see this a lot amongst our support team members as well, where we might have that tax that you know don't want to answer the phones or don't want to assist with laundry or other tasks that would normally be relegated to, you know, tax and pertumete tech assistance and kennel attendance and so on. So this comes up a lot. This is not just the support team, though we see this a lot with veterinarians that don't want to see clients that aren't theirs. They don't want to, you know, take calls from clients that aren't typically theirs, whatever it might be, and again it's creating the sense of resentment and frustration. Like who are you to say that you can't do this, so that you don't want to do this? It feels, you know, people in the focus group work really suggested that it felt like they were, quote unquote, better, you know, than the other person. Like too good to do this work, not stepping up, not being a team member. So again, eroding trust, creating frustration, creating resentment. So just being mindful of that, when you're asked to do something, to legitimately, yes, you might be too busy or it really might be outside of your wheel house, perhaps share that to say I'm really not comfortable doing that, because to give an explanation versus like no, I'm not doing that, right, just again, that perspective sharing. That just gives people a context for your response. So again, it all comes down to open communication and then having the willingness to yeah, you might have to step in. I've had situations where I was down, one of my technicians and I've had to assist with catheter placements or restraining a patient or whatever it might be, and it's not ideal. We don't like it, I get it, and there's a lot about that medicine that just isn't ideal right now. So can we try to show up as our best self, to show up for our team the way we want them to show up for us, essentially? So that's one of the big things.Stacey Cordivano:
Great. Well, I feel like we could talk about this forever. I did want to circle back to leadership a little bit, because I know some of that. Research shows that conflict resolution is a really important skill for leadership to have, and I wrote down this quote from those focus groups and it said prompt and consistent attention to negative behaviors is recommended to reduce the development of a toxic environment. And that sounds great, but that's a little vague, so I was curious if you had thoughts on that.Marie Holowaychuk:
I do. You know this is so much of the work that I do when I do coaching with leaders and do my workplace well-being trainings is a huge component of it is conflict resolution and it's even like the most inconsequential conflict that can come up, like there's a disagreement about the schedule, or there are two clinicians that really can't see eye-to-eye on managing cases together or whatever it is. So we can have this information conflict piece where there's just literally a difference of opinion or idea. And then we can have the personality conflict, which is what they're referring to in that statement, where they're wanting individuals to be held accountable for their negative behaviors. So, with the information conflict, the best advice that I can give to people is to show up as curious as you possibly can. It's very easy to take an information conflict and make it personal. You know they don't agree with me. They think I'm a bad criticalist, they think I'm a bad vet. You know, whatever it might be, rather than making it about you, make it about the issue, the situation. You know what is it about the schedule that you're not happy with? You know asking these open-ended questions, preferably that don't start with why, because that can create a lot of, you know defensiveness from the other person and just open up a dialogue. You know, tell me more. I really want to understand where you're coming from. I've never managed a case that way. I'd love to hear your perspective, or I'm not super comfortable doing it this way because I haven't done it before. Maybe you could explain to me how you've done it that way. You know, so that's really helpful for information. Conflict reflecting back to the other person. What you're hearing, you know. So what you're telling me is that you're really tired of working every weekend and that you'd like to have occasional Saturdays off. Okay, I can work with that, you know, or whatever it is, so that there's this exchange and essentially really focusing on the problem and really expressing a genuine desire to understand the other person's perspective, versus what most of us as humans default to, which is a need to defend ourselves and our perspective. So it's not about you, it's about the issue and focus on that. You know to the point about holding individuals accountable for their behaviors. This is where, again, I do still believe that a lot of those strategies can be effective getting really curious about a person's behavior, you know, definitely sharing what you've observed, being as objective as you possibly can, so not, you know. I heard from someone on the team that XYZ happened. You really want to speak to what you have observed as a leader and you know what you've seen, heard, witnessed etc. And then talk to the person about it, ask questions, you know, or even open it up. If you haven't had the opportunity to observe a person's behavior yourself, but you've been hearing things, have a conversation about how things been with you lately, what's been going on, what's been your take on you know work lately and how you've been showing up. Again, if you've got those really solid practice, values and norms for behavior, you can really tie back to those and ask. You know how the person might be showing up compared to our ideal team member and you know, I think, getting really clear on what you need as a leader and as a practice from that individual and also digging into what they need. Because this goes back to the comment I said earlier where none of us are showing up cranky and negative to our jobs for no reason. There's probably something there. There's maybe a need that we're not getting. Maybe we need a break. We're not getting it. We need a lower case load. It's not possible. Whatever it is. There needs to be a bi-directional conversation. You know this sort of help me, help you conversation, which is to say, this is what we expect from you and this is what we need. These sorts of behaviors aren't okay. So what do you need from us to get you from that point to where we expect you to be? And then you work with them on that. Again, they might need better training, they might need clear expectations. They might not have had any idea that what they were doing wasn't okay, so just some clarification there. And they might need something else that goes deeper maybe time off, maybe access to their employee assistance program to talk to someone you know. Having that bi-directional dialogue, never giving feedback to a person where we're just simply saying you're the problem, this is what you need to fix, owning what you can take responsibility for in that situation and working together to come to a solution.Stacey Cordivano:
Yeah, that's great advice and it reminds me of Brene Brown talking about the idea of thinking generously of people, which has been helpful to me and I often need reminders to do. But if you're thinking this is in that same line, right, think generously. They're not coming here to be a terrible person, like they joined this practice for a good reason, so great. Always giving people the benefit of the doubt always Well. Thank you so much for all of that insight. I know you're working so hard to help people with things like this. So what is going on in your world that people can get involved in?Marie Holowaychuk:
Oh, thanks so much for asking. Yeah, you know I'm very passionate about helping practice owners and practice managers, you know, lead healthy and non-burnt out teams healthy, thriving teams. So I do work with people one-on-one if individuals are looking to boost their leadership skills or if they simply need guidance about some of the things we talked about. You know, getting clear on these values, these norms for behavior, gaining some of the skills that will help them address conflict, deliver feedback to their team in a way that is productive. You know all those sorts of things, so people are welcome to reach out to me. I also have my Workplace Well-Being program that runs a couple of times a year and that'll be running again this fall and there's information about that on my website and I'm really excited about some practice leadership retreats that I will be launching this fall as well. So those will be virtual, in person at some point in the future, but starting with virtual and just opportunities for practice owners to come together and to commiserate with each other, to share in all the struggles that everyone experiences, even though it feels like you're experiencing it all by yourself and working together with group coaching, with workshops and different exercises to move through some of those challenges that we're experiencing today.Stacey Cordivano:
Oh my gosh, I almost forgot to ask you the question that I ask everybody, that you probably were expecting what is one small thing that has brought you joy this past week?Marie Holowaychuk:
Oh, it's been, it has to be my daughter, bethany. You know. We went to an amusement park this past weekend and just seeing the joy on her face like sitting on the little horse going around the carousel I think we went around 10 times on that ride. It was amazing. It was that. Just nothing makes me happier than to see her. So happy.Stacey Cordivano:
That's awesome. They are a lot of work, but, man, they are cute too. So Indeed. Thank you for sharing. That's great and you have a great podcast. I'll make sure to link to that and your website and your Instagram, which are all super helpful resources. So thank you again for being here.Marie Holowaychuk:
It's my pleasure. Stacey, Thanks so much for having me.Stacey Cordivano:
Thank you so much for tuning in to the Whole Veterinarian podcast. I so appreciate the time that you spend with me. To connect, please find me on Instagram at the Whole Veterinarian, or check out the website at thewholeveterinariancom, and you can sign up for our monthly newsletter as well. Thanks again, and I'll talk to you soon.