Part of being a professional is the expectation that we are to act, well, professionally. They don’t teach a course on professionalism in vet school- it’s one of those absorbed-by-osmosis things, I think.
As far as I can tell, the best way to be a good professional is to pretend you are a Vulcan at all times. If anyone has a better trick please let me know. I’m at a loss for a better definition.
It means not getting into fistfights in the parking lot.
It means not wearing platform flip flops to work (though I would argue those shouldn’t be worn anywhere.)
It means not spiking your co-worker’s drink with laxatives.
It means not calling co-workers or clients names.
In short, it is a nebulous code of conduct that entails treating people with respect, even if you are not getting the same in return.
Now I may be one of those crazy old fashioned types, but I believe treating everyone with respect and civility, even outside of work (though I make an exception when I’m driving. All Southern Californians do.) If you manage to be a jerk and show me you don’t deserve that respect, so be it, but life is a lot better when you give people the benefit of the doubt.
Which is why I find myself constantly taken aback at the way people sometimes treat each other, the things they might find acceptable to say, the insults and/or threats they find themselves entitled to speak because they are upset. Or cranky. Or for no reason whatsoever.
In a professional environment, it’s a tough line to toe. I understand that people say and do things under duress that they would not normally do, and I think most offices do try and be understanding about that kind of thing. More of then than not someone does have a legitimate concern, and if we can all stay calm enough to discuss it rationally it makes coming to a resolution that much easier. But there is a line- usually involving threats of some sort or another- that will get you politely but firmly shown the door.
Don’t get me wrong- most clients are great, and even if they are upset about something, we can usually work it out. I’m speaking solely of that small percentage of people who will, no matter what you do, never be happy and go out of their way to be mean and nasty. I wish I could say I really am zen and Spock-like, and I admit that I need to do more yoga, but letting the insults roll off me does not come naturally. I absorb other people’s emotions like a sponge, which is honestly one of the reasons I think I do my job well, but is also one of the reasons it can be consuming. Negativity is exponential, unfortunately; every insult can drag you down as much as 10 positive comments can lift you.
For the record: no one likes to be called a megalomaniacal money grubbing no good sorry excuse for an anything. Even if they look at you stoically and say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
I’m working on some visualization techniques to deal with the nasties. In my head, I have erected a “Jerk-O” button. When imaginarily pressed, it opens a magical trapdoor beneath the person in question, and they drop straight into the dumpster on top of the paper towels we use to clean up after anal gland expressions.
The nice thing about this is that the logistics occupy my mind somewhat, giving me the appropriate serious yet quizzical expression a professional must maintain even when being lambasted. There’s nothing left to do when someone’s flying off the deep end except ride it out- might as well use the time to ponder important trapdoor-related issues:
How quickly would they drop? Would they hover for a moment, ponytail floating in the air behind them, or just plop in like a stone? Would they keep yelling as they fell further and further away- “All any of you people care about is Moo-OOOHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh” or just silently thud on down? Who would I designate to meet them outside the dumpster with their pet and a copy of their records?
It beats listening to them lobbing psychological missiles at you, at any rate.
“If I were human, I believe my response would be: ‘go to hell’. If I were human.”
—Spock in ‘The Final Frontier’
Georgia Jewel says
Once again, Dr. V., you have nailed it! Mind if I steal the Vulcan attitude and trapdoor visiuals to get me through my next staff meeting?
Dr. V says
Oh yes, the trapdoor effect can work for anyone 😀
I Love the analogy and visuals . So apropo. Dr V You got it right again 🙂
Aww Dr V, you have my sympathies. I used to deal with customer complaints for an airline and I am always amazed at just how personal and vicious people can get. I had hate mail and people questioning my parentage and IQ. I love your analogy – do you think Spock could teach us that Vulcan neck pinch lol?
Dr. V says
Oh man, that would be very useful. LOL.
Lisa W says
I needed that trap door earlier today….
And if we don’t actually know what this person looks like, can we create a really nasty image of them as they plummet through the trapdoor? ‘Cause then I’m going to go looking for a picture on People of Walmart and use THAT as my visualization!
Dr. V says
Oh dear, that site scars my eyeballs. LOL
I totally wish I had that useful visualization when I was a receptionist/office donkey for an orthodontist. The client’s parents can get nasty when their appointments are even 5 minutes late. Also, trying to fit every single school age patient in an appointment after school is next to impossible, but boy did we try because if little Annie had to miss even 30 minutes of English we’d have massive amounts of vitriolic criticism sent our way.
Dr. V says
Oh man. I hear ya. I spent one long and horrid summer as front desk for a pediatric office in an upscale suburb. Aieeee that was some craziness.
I work for a bank so I’m sure you can only imagine the amount of colorful words thrown at me each day. You have no idea how many times thru gritted teeth I’ve had to say ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ when I would have loved to reply back with some colorful words of my own. I like your trapdoor idea, it might start using it 🙂
Dr. V says
Please do- I want to start a new craze! lol
I deal with that kind of disrespect and rudeness from coworkers at work so I can imagine how hard it would be to get it from a client.
I think the trapdoor should be open just long enough for them to realize they are going to their anal gland doom. bwahhh.
Dr. V says
Being an ER vet magnifies this all x1000. You get people calling in who never go to a vet, want you to fix everything for free, then yell at you when things are a) too expensive, or b) don’t work out the way they want them to, because they’ve either waited too long to come to a vet or they can’t afford what the animal needs. My favorites are the a-hole breeders who only care about the life of their puppies and could give 2 craps about the mother dog. Those or the “regulars” to our day exotic practice who are devoted to my boss, Dr. Crazy, who has a great bedside manner, but sometimes promises things that are insane. It’s great when we create our own crazies.
Dr. V says
Yup. I did not like being in ER. And we didn’t even do exotics…
Are you sure the “v” in Dr. V Doesn’t stand for Vulcan? 😉
There are some crazy people out there! But, you should be grateful. WIthout them, would you have this great blog post? No. But would you feel a little bit more sane? Yes, most likely. Erm. Never mind. Don’t thank them! 😉 😉 😉 🙂
I love this blog!
Dr. V says
I might thank them but through gritted teeth. 😉
Some people seem to take pride in being nasty. I don’t understand it. If I delight in the anal gland mattress image, am I being nasty too? Nah! It’s a matter of survival and the avoidance of greater violence.
PS I copied the Spock picture! Hope that’s OK. 🙂