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Trends: Generational interplay


DVM360 MAGAZINE


Generational disconnect

I never understood why my father harped about how deep the snow was and how far he had to walk to school.

In like manner, today's younger generations have a hard time picturing life without text messaging and cell phones.

Last year I was caught in the middle of a generational gap while teaching a practice-management class for a local veterinary technician program. I noticed that two of my poorer students were looking down onto their laps during a test. A fellow teacher came in and informed me that the two were texting answers to each other on their cell phones. I was dumbfounded and caught in a generational "gotcha."

I am a Baby Boomer. If I tell a Gen Y that I was raised in an era whose times were somewhat "Pollyanna" they would look at me and wonder if I was referring an ancient album recorded in 2000 by the rock band Northstar.

As a Boomer child I might have told friends that I "liked" this girl or that girl, implying that I would like to be her boyfriend. Now the word "like" is sometimes sprinkled non-stop into every sentence of a personal story told by someone a few decades younger than me.

How does this affect the veterinary workplace?

Like every other workplace, our staff ranks contain three distinct groups: The Boomers, the Gen Xers and Generation Y.

For veterinarians, the real issue in the practice environment is communication.

These three groups often do not communicate well with each other. In some cases generations are in conflict over "who makes the rules." This may come down to a conflict between younger staff with "fresh" ideas vs. those with "experience."

If your practice is large enough, cliques will form around generational groups. This is because these groups have similar outlooks that are a reflection of the popular culture (environment) that they have been exposed to, including family, friends, school and media. These generational groups have expectations based on these cultural outlooks. When these expectations are not met, conflict erupts.

It is important for the owner to ask staff to interact with each other on all generational levels. This may be uncomfortable for some at first but vital if the practice is to become a functional unit. Most practices create a specific culture from within. The veterinary culture should be as inclusive as possible.

It will help if all generations strive to help and support each other.

One of the most important things a staff member can do is to try to understand and successfully interpret what is important to the lives of others in the workplace.

It is the Golden Rule.

Or, loosely paraphrasing an American Indian saying: In order to understand someone you must walk a mile in their moccasins.

Dr. Lane is a graduate of the University of Illinois. He owns and manages two practices in southern Illinois. Dr. Lane completed a master's degree in agricultural economics in 1996. He is a speaker and author of numerous practice-management articles. He also offers a broad range of consulting services. Dr. Lane can be reached at


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Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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