“Have you ever worked in a setting where staff would act one way towards clients, yet bag them out as soon as they leave? Telling them one thing to their face: “you’re doing your best for Fluffy”, but turning around and telling colleagues “I can’t believe Mr Bloggs isn’t going to pursue treatment, people like that really shouldn’t have a dog.” Or worse.

You might feel like you’re taking the moral high ground, but toxic trash talking has major implications, none of which are good.

First, it creates and reinforces and us and them divide, where clients are seen as unknowing, irrational people who don’t deserve to care for animals, as opposed to the all-knowing, all-deserving veterinary team.

Second, it feels like a short-term score – by judging a client, we feel better about ourselves. But the judgement is based on a false-premise, and ultimately hurts the staff member doing it. Their interaction with clients is experienced as increasingly negative, yet interactions with clients can be the most rewarding aspect of our job.

Third, it sends a strong signal to your staff that it is acceptable to behave unprofessionally. Toxic trash talking is never limited to clients.

Finally, trash talking is a way of eschewing responsibility for cases. If Mr Bloggs isn’t doing his best for Fluffy, why did we tell him he was? If you know something Mr Bloggs doesn’t, why aren’t you sharing it with him? And what about Fluffy – can you really improve the welfare of a patient if you’re actively disrespecting the client, the person who cares for that animal 24/7 and will be in charge of implementing treatment?

Trash talking in the short term can represent a brief bonding over a common woe, but longer term it compromises our ability to help animals, and erodes our career satisfaction.” – Dr Anne Fawcett

Have you experienced an awkward encounter like this where you might like to speak up but feel you can’t? There are tools and ways of understanding colleagues, clients and your relationships to better under people and situations. If you’d like learn how to navigate these difficult clinical encounters with confidence, please join us this October 15th – 17th for the Navigating Difficult Clinical Encounters training Seminar in Sydney with three of the most supportive, intelligent and experienced veterinarians Dr Sandra Nguyen, Dr Cathy Warburton, and Dr Anne Fawcett.