What Would Shawn Do? Understanding Social Styles at Work


The person we hired as a practice manager is very smart and good at her job, but her lack of communication is driving me crazy. She doesn’t respond to small talk, and I can’t seem to build a relationship with her. I keep reaching out, but she’s all about work, work, work. I don’t know if I did something to offend her, but I’m uncomfortable, and I find myself avoiding her. What do you recommend?


What we have here is a difference in social styles. Based on your behavior, it sounds like you’re an amiable. She’s either an analytical or a driver, depending on how assertive she is when she gets her ideas across. One style isn’t any better than another. Understanding how you’re different will help you approach the new manager in a more positive way.

Angry businesswoman

The main difference between you and her is how much you focus on feelings. Amiables are very concerned about feelings and want everyone to get along. They tend to ask questions rather than make statements. The worst amiable stereotype is a Chatty Cathy who never gets anything done.

Analyticals also tend to ask questions rather than give orders, but they are focused on accuracy almost to the exclusion of all else. The worst analytical stereotype is “detail-oriented.”

Drivers want to get things done. They’re task-focused and assertive. The worst stereotype of a driver is a workaholic. Neither the analytical nor the driver pays much attention to feelings, especially at work.

Remember that this IS work, and even though you’d really like it to be otherwise, you and the new manager are probably not going to be best friends. She may be overwhelmed by all of the friendly overtures you’ve been making. She may think you’re in her space way too much and not letting her get her work done. That doesn’t mean you need to avoid her. Try out some of these techniques and see if she’ll warm up to you:

  • Emphasize the rational, objective aspects of the issue you’re dealing with.
  • Speak slowly and quietly.
  • Be more formal in your speech or manner than you would be otherwise.
  • Present pros and cons, as well as options.
  • Don’t overstate or exaggerate the benefits of your ideas.
  • Follow up in writing.
  • Be on time, and keep it brief.
  • Show how your approach has little risk.

What Would Shawn Do? Helping Your Staff Make a Good Impression


My team often shows up to work looking like something the cat dragged in. Our four-legged visitors tend to look and smell better than my staff does. Help!


Working with animals isn’t glamorous. Quite often it means sporting pee- or poo-stained scrubs and being covered in pet hair. But you have to pay attention to appearance, because clients use it to form an impression of you and your business.

Within seconds of meeting you, a client will make a number of assumptions, including the level of your self-esteem, confidence, organization skills, soundness of judgment, attention to detail, creativity, and reliability.

Here are some tips to manage your practice’s image, increase your team’s confidence, and give them a psychological edge:

  • relaxingCreate a written appearance and dress code. Tie it to the business’s mission and core values.
  • Train the team on what constitutes professional appearance, etiquette, and social graces in your practice.
  • Spell out what the consequences will be for not adhering to the appearance standards, and enforce them. Watch my video about how to handle violations.
  • Create contests for fitness improvement or best-dressed employee. Give a makeover or other image-related prize that fits your practice’s culture. The goal is to increase team satisfaction and buy-in to the image standards.

More Resources

In this video, I talk about proper posture for a veterinary-service setting.
In this video, I discuss how to talk to employees about a personal hygiene issue.
In this video, I discuss proper attire for practice managers.
Veterinary Growth Partners members should take the online course called “First Impressions: Image Management for the Veterinary Team.”
Good luck!

What Would Shawn Do? How to Handle Facebook Snarking


I am a receptionist in a busy clinic, and one of our technicians has been making comments and sharing quotes on Facebook that seem directed at me. She doesn’t mention me or the clinic by name, but I’m sure she’s talking about me. I’m usually very even-tempered, but this is pushing me to my limits. What should I do?Facebook Eye Roll


First, question your assumptions. Unless she named you or a specific incident that only you were involved in, you don’t know for sure that she’s talking about you. It’s really easy to personalize people’s online behavior, but you need to allow for the possibility that there is an alternate explanation.

Second, don’t fan the flame. Facebook conversations are public, and the fallout from a passive-aggressive word war isn’t worth it. If her remarks really are directed at you, and she’s hoping you’ll notice, the fire will die out much more quickly if you simply ignore them.

Lastly, work on the relationship. Try communicating with her directly about any problems between you, without mentioning the Facebook posts. Be a good listener, and ask questions to get to the root causes of the problems so that you can work together to solve them.

If she ever does name you, or posts negative comments that are specific to your role or the clinic, take a screen shot and report her to the practice manager or owner immediately. Online bullying is completely unacceptable and is harmful to you and the clinic.

What Would Shawn Do? Dealing with an Unethical Associate Doctor


I am a tech and work with an associate doctor, “Dr. B,” who makes what I think are ethically questionable medical decisions. It happens infrequently, but often enough for me to see it as a pattern. This usually happens when he is rushed and trying to move quickly. Dr. B is very tight with the owner. If I take my concerns to her, I’m afraid she will not believe me or will take Dr. B’s side. What’s my next step?


If you’re not positive the decisions are unethical, gather more evidence and document it before proceeding. Once you are certain the decisions are unethical, confront the associate doctor directly. Unless you believe there could be a risk to your own safety when dealing with Dr. B, schedule time to speak with him at the hospital, in private.

Describe specific examples of the unethical behavior, and explain why you believe it puts the patients and the hospital at risk. Ask Dr. B to commit to stopping the behavior. If he won’t agree to change, tell him you have no choice but to take the problem to the practice owner. Follow through and repeat what you told Dr. B.

The practice owner probably doesn’t know about the ethical violations or how they are jeopardizing patients or the hospital. But if she does know about these decisions and doesn’t care, you should find another job and report the violations to the state veterinary board.

Good luck!

What Would Shawn Do? Coping with a Co-worker Who Won’t Pull Her Weight


One of my co-workers seems completely checked out lately. She used to do a good job and we got along well, but the last several months she is constantly either taking smoke or bathroom breaks or on her phone. It isn’t fair for me to have to work twice as hard to keep up with everything that needs to be done in our busy practice. I don’t want to be a nag or a tattletale, but this has to stop. She’s a very sensitive person and gets defensive easily. What should I do?


How frustrating! You definitely need to confront her, even though you expect her to be defensive.

Write a brief script for how you will confront her, and practice it ahead of time. Think back to times she HAS been open to what you’ve had to say. What did you say or do that contributed to her reaction?

When you have the conversation, ask a question and really listen to the answer. “Lately I’ve noticed you’ve been acting differently at work. Is everything okay?” or “You don’t seem like yourself lately. Is anything bothering you?” Show concern and offer to help if you can.

Tell her what you are seeing and how it is impacting you. “When you are on your phone or away from our work station when it isn’t your break, it is stressful and hard for me to get my job done.” Wait for her to respond. She may apologize and offer a solution.

If she does not offer a solution, hold her accountable for solving the problem and ask her what she will do to solve it. “I expect this to change. Please commit to being on your phone and going out to smoke only when it is your break.”

If she isn’t receptive, or she promises to change but doesn’t, you will have no choice but to move up the chain of command and tell your boss. At that point, you will know you have done your best and are not being a tattletale.

 Good luck!