Adjusting a bad-attitude team in equine practice


Adjusting a bad-attitude team in equine practice

When team members go from rolling with the punches to rolling their eyes, don't ignore it.
Oct 01, 2007

(© Hayes)
THEY THINK YOU DON'T NOTICE. THEY DO IT RIGHT AFTER you turn away. But you see it. The dreaded eye roll—the ultimate body language sign of irritation, annoyance, and discontent. Why has your trusty assistant or loyal receptionist resorted to this behavior? And why haven't you noticed it before?

Taking stock: Do not ignore these signs
An eye roll may not be the only trouble sign. If your team truly is unhappy, you'll start to pick up on other clues. (See "Don't Ignore These Signs" of this equine section for more.) It's time to take stock of the situation—quickly.

So here's the million-dollar question: Why is your team unhappy? First, take a look at the dynamic of the team:

  • Do team members understand how you want them to do things?
  • Does everyone know their role and how they contribute to the overall success of the practice?
  • Do team members feel supported by the rest of the group?
  • Do team members know what you expect of them?
  • Do they know what co-workers expect of them?
  • Do they understand the hierarchy in the practice?
  • Do they know who the leaders are, who's there to support them in doing a good job, and who in turn relies on them?
  • Do they know they're an important asset to the practice and that they're valued for the job they do?

The bottom line
All of these issues combine to determine the group dynamic. And if something happens to disrupt it, you'll feel the shift, says Tracey O'Driscoll-Packer, a California-based equine management consultant. A first indication of trouble may appear as either a sense of disengagement or as an increase in conflict among team members. Conflict can also develop between the team and the leader.

Diagnose the problem

So you've noticed a change in the team dynamic. Now what? "Think about this as if it were a medical problem," O'Driscoll-Packer says. "You want to diagnose the situation, create a treatment plan, monitor progress—through observation and participation—and follow up with rechecks."

Before you approach your team, think about what has changed at your practice recently. For example, these changes can cause disruptions:

  • Adding a new doctor or another layer of management.
  • Hiring somebody with a strong personality who changes the dynamic or splits the group.
  • Adding additional team members. When team members' duties are in concert it's easy for everyone to stay in the loop. If your team gets larger, sometimes you split into departments with more specialized roles and suffer communication breakdowns.
  • Losing a key team member. Even if an employee doesn't hold a leadership title, a dramatic disruption can result if he or she set the tone or kept the team in rhythm.
  • Adding to the workload. Perhaps your practice is short-staffed and you're actually noticing the signs of burnout. If employees are showing up late, taking a lot of sick days, or more reluctant to cover each other's shifts, they may be experiencing fatigue. The bottom line: Many factors can affect your team's dynamic.