Management Rollercoaster

Posted: Dec 19, 2014
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You may be wondering, whatever happened with my new manager role? Funny story… Earlier this year I was excited about adding managerial responsibilities to my plate. Things actually went okay (with my single reporting employee), and I thoroughly enjoyed the additional training and mentoring from HR. Then in April I was asked if I would consider taking over intern manager duties on an interim basis while their regular manager went on maternity leave.

Sure! Why not? I mean, those outgoing interns have been here almost a year so they should pretty much have the system down, right?

Of course this also meant that I would be “interim intern manager” when the newbies came on board in late June. That is a mountain of work, to be sure, but again it is an exciting time with enthusiastic fresh veterinarians joining the practice. Why not? I mean, by then I should have the whole manager thing down to a science.

As you see in the simple chart above, I went from one report (our surgery technician), to 5 reports (surgery technician and 4 outgoing interns), to 9 reports (surgery technician, 4 outgoing interns and 4 incoming interns). Then it back down to 5, then 1, then (gasp) zero. Be one with the mighty sequoia… bend with the wind and stay standing.

During my time with 9 reporting employees, I had one timecard session where EVERY SINGLE EMPLOYEE had either messed up his/her timecard or had some bizarre special situation that required help from payroll to sort out. Actually, come to think of it, from January through November (24 timecards) I had exactly TWO timecards where I didn’t have to slink over to HR/Payroll to get help unravelling a snafu. “Troll of Timecards” was more accurate than I originally suspected.

Timecards aside (Really, how important are they anyway? Oh, yeah, I guess we all want to get paid), I was thrown into the deep end of the pool with respect to delivering critical feedback. Don’t get me wrong, every one of my reporting employees is a wonderful person with a solid veterinary foundation. I’m proud to work with each of them and consider all of them friends and colleagues. But there is the little element of “intern feedback” to be reckoned with.

Intern feedback covers everything from complaints about an intern’s perfume to the inevitable “senioritis” that infects the outgoing interns in June to the familiar client feedback about confusing discussions with (new) interns. The reality is simply that learning how to function in a hospital is never instantaneous, no matter your brilliance or dedication. Our interns shadow staff veterinarians and outgoing interns for two weeks to get the hang of patient flow, documentation, generating estimates and so forth. But there is only so much we can expect them to absorb in any period of time. I fully expected to have some “teachable moments” with the new interns. What I didn’t expect was the non-stop tidal wave of comments, complaints, criticisms and general teeth-gnashing during that first month.

“So and so talks too much.”

“So and so doesn’t talk enough.”

“So and so always sits at the computer I like to use.”

Sigh. True to my nature, I did my best to deliver negative feedback couched with something positive. “Newbie intern, you do a very thorough job of explaining things to clients. Clients have said they appreciate your patience and time with them. But the staff thinks you talk too much.” Yeah, I spent a lot of my time figuring out how to spin the feedback so as not to break our fragile newbies but also to help them move in the right direction. Good thing I really like all of our new interns, although maybe it would have been easier to say "the staff doesn’t get your humor" to someone I didn’t care about.

Long story short, I made it through maternity leave (not mine!) without breaking or losing an intern. I’m fairly certain that my 9 reporting employees all received the appropriate paychecks too. Suddenly, my responsibility dropped back to my surgery technician. Then just as suddenly she decided to take a one-in-a-lifetime job at the local zoo and I became the manager of nobody (again).

What a year! I can’t say I miss translating the mayhem that is our timecards or having those awkward discussions (“Um, about your perfume…”). I’m still giving feedback and mentoring as much as always, but now I have a little but of time to write a blog or two and catch up on my other responsibilities as a  specialist at DoveLewis. 


They say I gotta learn, but nobody's here to teach me
If they can't understand it, how can they reach me?

-Coolio (Gangsta's Paradise)