The veterinarian stuck on a soapbox

The veterinarian stuck on a soapbox

The veterinary clinic isn’t immune to election-year friction. But what happens when team members start to feel intimidated by one belligerent doctor’s expression of his political views?
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Jan 11, 2017

We're totally convinced now! Photo: Shutterstock/ArtFamilyBy all accounts 2016 was a unique year in the world of politics. Very few people didn’t have opinions about one of the most dynamic presidential elections of our time. And Dr. Silas Hobbs was one of them.

Dr. Hobbs is a passionate veterinarian. He’s bright, committed, persistent and uncompromising. For 12 years, he’s worked at Sunrise veterinary hospital, a six-veterinarian, 37-employee facility owned by Dr. Jim Bass.

Dr. Hobbs was vigorously supportive of one of the candidates and highly derogatory toward the other. At first, he vehemently expressed his opinions to coworkers during breaks and downtime. That progressed to discussions during surgical procedures and treatment-room functions.

Some team members told supervisors they felt uncomfortable when Dr. Hobbs questioned them about their political choices. In most cases, they were his subordinates and felt intimidated.

The confrontation

When these types of situations arise, Dr. Bass, the sole owner, takes responsibility. He prides his hospital on its positive work environment and believes it’s his obligation to manage conflict resolution in his group of highly skilled team members.

Dr. Bass’ first step was to schedule a meeting with Dr. Hobbs. He told Dr. Hobbs that although he was a valued member of the team, his continual fervent discussions of the presidential election had violated some workplace directives. Dr. Bass told Dr. Hobbs that his behavior led to the intimidation of several subordinate staff members.

Dr. Hobbs was incensed. He replied that the accusation was ridiculous and furthermore, it was his civic duty to discuss the workings of the electoral process with his coworkers. Denying him this opportunity was tantamount to a violation of his freedom of speech.

Dr. Bass let him finish. He told Dr. Hobbs that he understood how strongly he felt, but regardless, Dr. Hobbs had to follow the hospital’s code of conduct. After all, he told Dr. Hobbs, he was an “at-will” employee.

Dr. Hobbs took a moment, silently fuming. He believed the decision was shortsighted, but he valued his job. Eventually, he agreed to follow Dr. Bass’ order.

Should Dr. Bass have let this issue blow over with the conclusion of the election, or was he correct to respond to staff complaints?

Dr. Rosenberg’s response:

The veterinary workplace is dynamic—and can even be volatile. Stress is an inevitable part of any veterinary practice. An annoying or opinionated coworkers are a fact of life. The true challenge for any owner or manager is the ability to discriminate between the ebb and flow of day-to-day stressors and behavior that begins to impact the ability of staff members to perform their duties. Dr. Bass felt that he had to shut down escalating unprofessional behavior by one of his doctors.

He used a time-honored stroke/slap technique. He told his staff member how valuable he was. He then laid out his objectionable behavior and the possible consequences of not correcting this behavior. The final decision was then left to the employee. In the end, Dr. Bass and Dr. Hobbs both did the right thing. They certainly get my vote! 

Dr. Marc Rosenberg is director of the Voorhees Veterinary Center in Voorhees, New Jersey. Although many of his scenarios in "The Dilemma" are based on real-life events, the veterinary practices, doctors and employees described are fictional.

Clinic Politics and the Soapbox

I'll jump in...
Sticky subject, but important.
Brief history as to why I became a political DVM.
I purchased land at the periphery of my city many years ago. Then I converted the ranch home on the land to serve as my clinic.
I began by working basically 24 hours per day, being on emergency call as well as 7 a.m.-7 p.m. work schedule. This I did for 2-years.
The practice soared.
I was worn out but could see the fruits of my labors.
Then, about 12 years later, the property taxes on my clinic/land went from $2,600 in 1989 to $16,400 the next year. A local developer want a mall near where I was located.
Devastating.
I fought at city, county and state levels for 5-years. Eventually I moved.
OK---This adventure made me much more aware of the totality of 'government'.
Because I was so angry I read and read. How could some entity tax me from, life, liberty, property, the three building blocks of America?
As a result, I have read about 100 political science books, archived data and materials, and probably know more than most about the philosophy of politics--and much more than elected officials.
To wit. Society is asleep. Elected officals are asleep or have an agenda.
Among the populace there is little informed discourse, in private or in our work areas. There is only emotion.
Knowledge must trump [excuse the potential pun] emotion....
As a result, and in our luxury, we have forgotten how we, as Americans, arrived where we are. We have forgotten that 'liberty under law' is necessary for human effort to blossom.
We have forgotten that unchecked power is dangerous.
We have forgotten that as all things centralize in a nation, the less freedom is available.
We have forgotten about the siren call of lethargy in the public square.
And I would assert we, as a country, are degenerating rapidly because 'religion and politics' are taboo....!!!
Wow! The two most important things that affect our lives can no longer be brought forth for rational, not emotional, discourse. Our current education system has put the lock on that.
My assertion: America suffers from P, M, S.
We, from top to bottom, we have put:
Power before Principle
Money before Morals
Self before Sacrifice.
America's design broke 6,000 years of slavery. The design, and it's people were, and are not now perfect, but the design was flexible.
We have improved without basically changing the foundation--up until now. The last period of time has allowed 'gradualism' of small changes to change our culture. I contend, as would our Founders, this concept is our enemy. Power ALWAYS seeks more power.
Now we are witnessing the degeneration cycle of our Republic. ["... and to the Republic, for which it stands...]
FREEDOM is sticky. Pure freedom is anarchy. Freedom was the reason for our 'revolution'...
But freedom, to be constructive, requires 'virtue' which requires a 'moral code', which requires religion; and then it turns back on itself from the religion, which establishes a 'moral code' which establishes 'virtue' which requires 'freedom'. One simply cannot exercise virtue without freedom. [The Golden Triangle of Freedom by Os Guinness--"Imagine leadership without character, business without ethics and science without human values—in short, freedom without virtue." Guinness argues that while the laws of the land may provide external restraints on behavior, freedom requires virtue, which in turn requires faith.]
When any of these become disconnected, a culture declines.
So whose morality? In our Founding it is well known to be Judeo-Christianity. This from the vast majority of surviving original documents. That belief system did NOT punish anyone for not being on board. That belief systems established laws which were common sense.
That beginning was followed by the correction of errors. The Civil War was the prime example among other. How, Amendment.
Now, after years of fine tuning our ideas and codifying in laws, we find America's concept of freedom has degenerated into license based on the erroneous concept that America is a Democracy.
America is a Republic.
The only democracy in America is at the precinct level. The rest is done by 'representation'. Those government representatives are required to swear to uphold the various state constitutions as well and the Federal Government's Constitutions, against "ALL ENEMIES FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC".
That has not happened. Modern law has become the lever to change morality, to establish a quasi-government called the 'administrative state' and a host of other entities which run rampant over the Constitution.
One of my high school kennel employees did not even know who the first president was.
This reinforces the idea that we know longer, as a country, know our roots, know our meaning, and are observing an increasingly rapid race towards socialism.
Paul Johnson's work, Modern Times, reflects the fact that between 1920 and 1990, "120 million people died unnatural deaths" due to socialism.
We are leaving America's roots, and the general population, including veterinarians and their employees, are ignorant--for the most part, just as an increasing number of Americans are.
The solution then is not to keep quiet. The solution is knowledge and discussion. Yes, exchange of ideas must be civil. Yes, the exchange of ideas requires knowledge and discernment. The art of constructive argument is essential to a viable citizenry. It has been called 'the animating contest of freedom...'
Just as America had initial problems, we still have problems. Discussion is needed in civics, morality, values, work ethic, welfare, education, etc.
If one cannot converse in a civil manner with friends, fellow-employees, and those who supposedly lead our nation, we are indeed most unfortunate.
The courage to stand for time-tested values trumps the potential loss of revenue.
If we do not now engage in informed discourse then either we have been dumbed-down or conditioned, by cliche, or we are following the way of Rome through the evils of excess 'luxury'.
In sum, if a veterinary clinic cannot agree on basic 'right or wrong' how can we expect society to be on course. Culture is not
'multi-multiculturalism'. That latter term is an oxymoron standing against itself within a compound and invented word.
You have the 'freedom' to quell political rhetoric in your clinic, or not. Informed 'freedom' may, and will, have short or long term ramifications.
Morality, not Money, is the goal... and which leads to ordered liberty.
This is quite a rant, and I hope to see others jump in.