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Stop Hazing the New Employee

Veterinary teams love hazing the new employee. In fact, some of you reading this participated in the hazing without even knowing it. In almost every hospital where I’ve been employed I’ve witnessed some form of hazing. It needs to stop. Veterinary medicine is stressful enough without teams hazing new employees.

It’s Not a Problem At My Hospital

I know some of you are thinking that there is no way hazing happens in your hospital. For some of your hospitals, this is true. Most of the time, it is not the blatant hazing or even the bullying that we all associate with the term. Instead, it is the purposeful nonsupport of the new employee by our current employees. Such nonsupport is so damaging it results in the new hire quitting. The non-support is malicious, conscious, and even planned out.

Hazing occurs when a new employees feels ostracized by the team, left to fend for themselves. They feel picked on and excluded. In short, they don’t feel like they are part of the team. The team doesn’t feel like the new hire “belongs” so they haze them until they quit. The hazing comes in the form of ignoring, purposeful sabotage, rudeness, passive aggressiveness, or gossip. The team believes that if the new hire “can survive” by figuring things out all by themselves then they are worthy of staying as part of the team.

Hazing Picks on the New Hire

When a new employee is hired, a certain percentage of the current team will say or think, “I don’t trust them. How much do they even know? They will have to prove themselves.” Team members often see the new hire as “more work” instead of a new teammate there to help them. Here is this new hire they will have to train and “deal” with. What a hassle.

I have seen hazing happen from every role in the veterinary hospital and be directed at anyone new. I have seen new practice managers pushed out of a hospital in under a month’s time because the team makes fun of them behind their back and criticizes everything they try to do. The new employee feels alone and disliked in their new job. I have watched veterinarians crush a new front office employee to the point they leave crying after repeated malicious attacks. I have watched veterinary technician say “it’s not their job to train or help” the new employee and I’ve watched that new employee struggle and quit.

No Wonder You’re Short Staffed

Here is the bigger problem that teams often do not realize: new hires who quit will likely tell every single veterinary friend how they were mistreated and what a terrible place the hospital is to work at. Those veterinary friends tell others about how ABC Veterinary Hospital has a toxic team culture. The hospital not only lost one new hire but at least 10 potential new hires. Excellent hazing work! Ironically the very team that pushed the new hire out the door will complain about how short staffed they are.

How to Stop Hazing

Stopping hazing starts with leadership. The team should be aware that it is not tolerated and action will be taken against those that mistreat new employees (or anyone really). Have a written policy outlining what hazing in. Ensure that training of new hires is a responsibility for all employees. Include it in their job description. During a meeting remind teams at least twice a year about the importance of inclusivity.

Develop a 90 day orientation program for new hires that involves the whole team. The team should learn to embrace the new employee. Team members should be excited about what the new employee brings in terms of knowledge and experience. Creating this mindset within the team early on will help with new hires. Get your team excited about the new hire! Avoid saying, “It will take time before they are up to speed,” or “It will take everyone’s help and a lot of work to get the new hire trained.” Stay away from phrases that make the new hire sound like a burden to the hospital. It is a given that any new hire, regardless of their knowledge and experience, will take time to get up to speed.

For any new hire to be successful in a hospital, they must feel that others welcome them. “After a long search we finally hired a new doctor and she starts in three weeks! It’s going to be great to have a new member to the team!” As a leader, be enthusiastic and this will spill outward to your team.

Hazing is costing us new employees. Not just one new employee, but many. Regardless of skill or education, hazing occurs to many new employees in veterinary hospitals. When we decrease or eliminate hazing, new employees are more likely to stay and even recommend our hospitals as a place of employment.

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