Navigating Employee Termination with Care: A Guide for Veterinary Managers

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By Randy Hall

March 8, 2024

Firing an employee can be one of the toughest tasks for any veterinary manager. It's essentially telling a decent person that their job is no longer secure. While there are instances where termination is justified due to ethical breaches, oftentimes it's simply a matter of poor fit with the role or the team's culture. In such cases, we find ourselves having to let go of a good person who's just not performing up to par.

Sometimes Tough Choices Benefit the Team

For a practice to thrive, it needs top-notch talent, and sometimes that means making adjustments to the team. Here are some key considerations as you navigate the prospect of team changes:

Have You Prioritized Coaching?

Prioritize coaching before you let an employee go

Everyone has the potential to excel, and it's the responsibility of a coach to unlock that potential. It's tempting to believe that replacing underperformers with superstars will instantly elevate the team, but the reality is rarely so straightforward.

Effective coaching is crucial. As managers, it's our duty to nurture growth, development, and performance. If we're not succeeding in coaching the current team, chances are we won't fare any better with a new one. Making necessary changes is important, but remember, without improving our coaching skills, we'll keep facing the same challenges with each new team.

Fairness in Performance Assessment

being fair when assessing performance in veterinary clinic

If despite coaching efforts, there are still underperformers on the team, it's unfair to both them and the rest of the team to let it slide. Continuing to tolerate mediocrity sends a message that subpar performance is acceptable, which can lead to disillusionment among high-performing team members.

Those who aren't thriving deserve the opportunity to find a better fit elsewhere, while those who excel deserve to work alongside equally dedicated colleagues.

Honesty and Effort Are Appreciated

recognize effort in your veterinary practice

When termination becomes inevitable despite coaching efforts, honesty and support are crucial. Most people understand and respect the decision when they see genuine efforts to help them improve. Even though losing a job is tough, it can also serve as a catalyst for personal growth and improvement.

Providing clear reasons for termination enables individuals to understand what changes they need to make for future success. Remarkably, great coaches often receive gratitude from those they've had to let go for the support and guidance provided during their tenure.

Conclusion: Leading with Integrity

Firing someone is undoubtedly challenging, but sometimes it's necessary for the greater good of the team and the individuals involved. Handling talent changes with care fosters a culture of success, allowing top performers to thrive while providing others with a chance for a fresh start.

As leaders, part of our responsibility is making tough decisions, but how we navigate those decisions speaks volumes about the kind of leaders we are becoming.

Do you have experience with tough decisions like when to let an employee go? Share it with your colleagues in the comments section below.

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