Top Five HR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Posted: Mar 28, 2017
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Tell strangers on a plane you are in management and chances are they wrinkle their nose a bit and make a face. Try telling a stranger you’re in HR. They look at you like you announced you are an IRS auditor.


Well, to be frank, the general public has not necessarily had good experiences with management or HR. This is why TV shows like The Office and movies like Bad Bosses were so widely accepted; they are exaggerated version of a lot of real-life experiences. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the frank and bottom line is that managers are humans. And they are also managing humans. Humans are complex. There isn’t really a course that shows exactly how to handle every human in every situation. Therein lies the problem.

So – that’s it then. No solution?

While humans are complex, there are HR mistakes that managers make that can cause the leading, mentoring, and managing of humans to be all the more complex. And they are mistakes I hear all the time from practice managers all over the country, and even from my own managers at Dove.

1. Hiring quickly, in desperation, or blindly

Hiring mistakes are one of the most common and costly mistakes a manager can make. Hiring is an imperfect science; however the chances of hiring the wrong person can be significantly reduced with a good process in place. But sometimes life gets in the way of well-intentioned managers.

Managers are in a tough spot to hire. Often they are filling their own open shift or they are personally asking their staff to pick up the slack. That’s a lot of pressure. This can result in hiring too quickly, hiring whoever is interested, or hiring whoever their staff recommends. Not onboarding the right person for the right job comes back later to result in turnovers or culture issues.

Avoiding this starts with ensuring you have a strong process in place that you follow for each hire that outlines what you are looking for. If possible, have a third party that is less emotionally involved sit in on interviews. They can be your objective touchpoint.

2. Not dealing with employee issues as they arise

Managers are constantly in a balancing act. Issues need to be addressed, but you have to pick your battles. Otherwise you are nitpicking. One of the most common HR mistakes is not dealing with issues as they come up. What tends to happen is that managers are making a mental note in their head and over time, get frustrated with the employee for their transgressions. Of course the ending result to the employee is the manager is “suddenly” upset about issues that, in the employee’s mind, have been previously accepted. This usually causes the employee to feel resentful as they are blindsided by the feedback. If this issue results in a termination, the lack of previous discussions also increases the risk for a lawsuit.

Avoiding this starts with ensuring you have regular meetings with your employees so you are able to bring up timely feedback about smaller issues before they become larger. Prioritize what is important to you as a manager so when small things happen, you can determine if they are “mentionable” offenses. Remember, avoiding smaller conversations now just leads to a larger uncomfortable conversation later. Besides, you owe it to your staff to be honest.

3. Not documenting

You’ve heard it before – document, document, document. While it is not new news, it is still a common HR mistake. A lot of times managers assume that they were clear and that the issue will resolve itself. Of course, when things become more serious with that employee, issues can be compounded if you have nothing written to back it up. Worse is when you terminate them and they sue you. If you have no documentation of past conversations, it makes it more complicated to defend a wrongful termination suit.

Avoiding this takes some work – but it does not have to be all encompassing. If you have a conversation with an employee, just quickly send yourself an email summarizing the situation. This can be used in later reviews or, if needed, as evidence of documentation as it will be time stamped. If you are having a formal conversation with your employee, sending them an email running through your discussion points is also a good idea. Give them a chance to respond and ask questions about anything they may have heard differently.

4. Being on a different page than your clinic owner

Imagine you have a VTS CVT who the clients love. He or she practices awesome medicine. He or she also throws temper tantrums, bullies the other staff, and has a hard time taking direction. You have counseled this employee, written them up, and when you are ready to pull the plug, the technician goes to the clinic owner and the clinic owner reverses course. This is an all too common situation that plays out in clinics every day and it results in not being on the same page with your clinic owner about what is and is not acceptable behavior.

Avoiding this starts with making sure you are meeting with your clinic owner regularly. In those meetings, you have time to discuss the badly behaving employee and get a good feel for your clinic owner’s appetite for corrective action and termination. You should be honest with the clinic owner about this employee’s effect on the staff, but you also have to understand their political capital and make sure you are handling the situation strategically. If you go into it and the clinic owner doesn’t have your back, your staff will view you as useless from a decision-making perspective.

Clinic owners: Be honest with your practice manager about where you stand with people so they are not in a situation like this. While it is your clinic to run and you are the final decision maker, you also want a practice manager that has the power to do the things you hired him or her to do. This frees you up to do medicine.

5. Lack of training and development

In the busy world of veterinary medicine, days and weeks go by and often managers can forget to actually manage. Training and developing your staff is often listed by managers as a key priority, but it is often one that gets moved to the back burner.

Failing to train and develop your staff, however, gives them the indirect message that you are not interested in them as a person, but rather your interest is simply in the work they perform for you. This causes stagnation, frustration, and turnover.

Avoiding this is easier said than done. Training gets put on the back burner because it is time consuming, but it is important. Set up a time to meet with your staff and ask them the following:


  • In your day-to-day job
  • Working with your team
  • Working with (or interacting with) your peers


  • In your day-to-day job
  • Working with your team
  • Working with (or interacting with) your peers


  • What do I do that motivates you?
  • What do I do that drains you?
  • What can I do to make you more satisfied in your position?

From there, work with them on a plan that will position them to spend more time in the motivators category than the drainers category. You also don’t have to do it alone. Someone on your staff is bound to love teaching. Task them with bringing training topics to monthly staff meetings (have monthly staff meetings).

You can also involve your local ER hospital and your vendors. Most offer CE opportunities to you. Schedule a time for them to come to and do a lunch and learn. Even ask them to do a wet lab. Last, encourage your staff to spend time at CE. If you do send your staff, make sure they come back and share what they have learned.