CVPM, SHRM-CP, CSSBG
Claire Pickens is national senior director of operations for Thrive Affordable Vet Care, a former practice owner and a veterinary management professional. She is Fear Free certified.Read Articles Written by Claire Pickens
It’s the Monday after a busy week at the practice, and everyone’s nerves are a bit frayed. To lighten the atmosphere and create smiles, you stop on your way in to pick up doughnuts. Even though you are mentally exhausted from all the fires you put out the past week, you found the strength to tackle this week with a positive attitude.
As you pull into the parking lot, you are happy with your decision to give a little reward to show your appreciation for everybody’s hard work. Getting out of your car, you begin to smile because you are going to create a great week. As you open the front door to make your entrance, you think about all the subtle things you’ll do throughout the week to keep everyone moving in the right direction.
And then it happens.
Just as you are ready to put the doughnuts in a conspicuous place and announce that you’ve brought a nice treat, the words that can reshape your whole day come out. “Can we talk?” says your senior receptionist. The words that can make any manager cringe have begun your workweek. Before you get the chance to spread the joy, you are already fighting the first fire. “Of course,” you say as you prepare yourself for unknown news.
As the “talk” begins, you realize that this “talk” will undoubtedly require you to “talk” to a few other people within the practice. You know that each “talk” will result in communication with others to make sure that all concerns are addressed. And even though you’ve tackled this process numerous times, and you have a system for getting it done efficiently, resilient strength is necessary to provide so much support to others.
As managers, we sometimes give out far more support than we feel we receive. We find ourselves pondering decisions and contemplating conversations to the point of emotional exhaustion. Many of us care so much for our co-workers that we dread having to make decisions that impact them. On a slow day, this could come in the form of sending someone home early. Or, in the case of poor performance or bad chemistry, it might mean contemplating the termination of a team member.
These decisions, often massively unpopular, are difficult to make. You ask yourself, “Did I do everything I could to prevent having to make this hard decision?” Even if you did everything right, the need to constantly have “talks” and make difficult adjustments and decisions can lead to the blues.
How do you overcome the management blues? It is not as simple as telling yourself to find more inner strength. It is far more complex than having confidence in the decisions you make. The way to overcome the management blues involves a few distinct steps.
Management can be a lonely position. To protect your emotional health, practicing good self-care is vital. This begins with the development of a healthy work-life balance. Your whole life cannot reside within the practice.
One element of self-care is the extent to which you develop close friendships within the practice. You need to consider that you may have to reprimand, or in the worst case, terminate your “friend” at some point. To practice proactive self-care, you need to develop healthy boundaries with your work friends. You can have meaningful conversations with them, but be transparent about topics that are out of bounds as they relate to your management position. And remember to regulate the social time spent with co-workers so you can protect the professional relationship and your emotional well-being over decisions you may have to make about someone you care about.
Another element of self-care is how much of your work life you allow to become a part of your personal life. You may be tempted to vent about and discuss work events with people in your household. A healthy boundary, in the interest of maintaining a positive work-life balance, is to limit the time you discuss work at home. Establishing this boundary allows you to properly focus time on the relationships you have outside of work. It allows you to take a mental break from your work environment and put the focus elsewhere, whether that be a hobby, television show, physical activity, family, pets, friends or your partner.
Developing Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence, otherwise known as EQ, is the ability to understand the source of your emotions and the emotions of others. As you develop EQ skills, you will begin to better control the expression of your emotions. You will be able to digest the “talks” you have with team members in a way that separates the emotional aspects from the logistical aspects, allowing you to make decisions based more on creating the ideal outcome than simply reacting to the emotions of the situation. Emotional intelligence is a personal and professional skill that improves your ability to manage situations without internalizing the professional decisions you must make.
The subconscious mind is a powerful force, one that causes us to react instinctively to occurrences in our lives. The more you understand how the mind works and how it results in emotional reactions, the more grounded your decisions become as a manager.
Stop Internalizing Reactions
In management, internalizing the reactions you get from others is easy. While empathy is an essential management trait, the internalization of the feelings of others can be self-destructive.
Caring about the feelings of others is important. It makes you a genuine manager who acts in the best interest of people within the work environment. A caring manager can connect with people in a trusting way, often building lasting bonds.
But people sometimes say and do self-destructive things. Sometimes, workplace conflict requires you to make a tough decision that impacts someone you care about. You must realize that these decisions are simply a part of the position you hold. They are professional decisions, not personal ones. You will inevitably feel the sting, but to internalize and allow the feelings to last is damaging.
Management blues are an accumulation of a series of tough days, decisions or conversations. You cannot make the position any less complicated, but you can adjust your mindset to be sure you stay mentally balanced in your performance. Kick the management blues by taking care of yourself, developing emotional intelligence and not internalizing professional interactions and decisions.
Claire Pickens is a director of learning and development for Thrive Affordable Vet Care, a former practice owner, and a veterinary management professional.