Got Issues?

by Rebecca on March 8, 2015

Got ISSUES-What do you do with a Team Member with Some Issues?

Dave Ramsey first introduced me to the term Sanctioned Incompetence. To sum it up, sanctioned incompetence means that if we allow people to get away with bad behavior then it will ultimately destroy the morale of the team. Sanctioned incompetence will destroy your hospital’s culture and will often lead to the “good” people leaving your team.

I have seen of Sanctioned Incompetence playing out in a couple of ways.

First is the obvious, you have someone in your hospital who just is not capable of doing the job you hired him or her for. Be it the technician who can’t draw blood or the assistant who can’t seemingly learn how to properly restrain a dog even though she has been given a ton of instruction.

These are the obvious cases of someone who no longer needs to be working in your hospital, which usually makes for an easy decision to let them go.

The other group can be more challenging to deal with well.

This is the technician who is a great technician when he is there but has a habit of calling out sick a Monday or two a month. How does this make the other people on your team feel, when they are working as hard as they can yet this person seems to have a different set of rules than the rest of the team? Does your team joke about when this person is going to be “sick’ again?

What about the doctor who is not a team player? Who does not seem to completely buy into your core values or the why behind what you do BUT she is a big revenue generator. I have heard directly from business owners, “well, we cannot get rid of her because she is such a big producer”. When statements like this are said, you are reinforcing to everyone on the team, “yes, culture and core values matter, but not as much as the bottom line.”

As you can imagine, I have strong feelings about situations like these but I really want to know what YOUR perspective.

I bet everyone reading this has worked with people like this technician and doctor. I would love to hear what you think about working with people like this and how it made you feel about your working environment, your hospital’s culture and its leadership.

Have you ever worked with people like this or other people who had “issues”? What did you or the leaders in your practice do?


Facebook Twitter Email

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Vet Changes World March 8, 2015 at 1:20 pm

I think the danger here is the tendency to blame the person over the system. I think most cases like the ones you are describing that are really severe stem from either a failure to set expectations or a failure to enforce them. I feel like when the incompetence stops being sanctioned, most people will choose to get their act together or to leave.

It is also important to sanction competence. We often fail to positively reinforce the right behaviors – sometimes even if we can’t punish someone into changing their behavior, we can show there are rewards for acting appropriately. Giving praise and kudos is something we can usually do even if we’re not in a position of power.

Interestingly the Mayo Clinic (at least claims) they have no room for “stars” in their world famous hospital. If you think you’re too good to follow the same guidelines as everyone else, you’re out. While it might not be as easy to see, if team morale suffers ultimately it does hurt the bottom line.

It’s also important to recognize that many strengths inevitably come with a weakness. Someone who is really thorough veterinarian, may also have a tendency to need more help from technicians. A practice manager who is laid back and creates a comfortable work environment, might not enforce the rules as much as you’d like. We do have to recognize that some of these tradeoffs exist, and understand where we’re willing to make that tradeoff. Structuring the team in a way that people help fill in or support each other can help. For instance, pairing a doctor who is a fantastic big picture thinker with a technician who is really detail oriented may help both.


Rebecca March 8, 2015 at 1:30 pm

I 100% agree with you. A friend of mine works at a clinic without true systems in place and the practice manager is not very “good” because of it but I said the fault lies more with the owners not have systems set up for this manager to succeed than this person is a failure. It is way to easy to blame the people when you actually don’t have systems in place. I heard someone say that if the same problems keep happening with different people- it is not the people who are the problem it is the system or lack of system!!
Love the sanctioned compentence- so true!!
Lastly pairing people who share values but have different strengths is what I believe the secret sauce that makes for a great culture!

Thanks for commenting!


Hilarie March 9, 2015 at 6:49 am

I struggle with this one a lot. I know I am a perfectionist and that my expectations of people are always higher than is practical, which means it is hard for me to know when someone is underperforming or not. I can’t tell if my expectations are too high or if the person needs to go.
A few pieces of advice that have helped me were: “If you know they’re never going to be a ’10’ and you want a ’10’, they need to go” from my mentor, and also from this blog – “If you feel like you’re constantly mirco-managing someone, it’s not the right hire”. For us as a new business with a very small margin for additional expense, it is a very tough decision to drop a new hire and start interviewing for another one. The drug test, background check, nametag, uniforms, job listing, and all of that costs me nearly $1000 for each new hire. We do three interviews, call references, and take a lot of time to train new people. This is a huge investment on our part to get rid of someone after 90 days – something we have had to do several times. Also at the relatively low hourly wages of my assistants, I wonder if I’m wasting my time looking for the “perfect” hire because if I find them, I can’t hold on to them very long because they’re successful people who move on to other things. I can think of an example of sanctioned incompetence in every member of my team, especially myself! The struggle is determining what is severe enough to cause problems for the whole team.


Rebecca March 10, 2015 at 8:09 am

So true- I think these are always tensions to manage vs. problems to solve!

Thanks for commenting!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: