10 Tips for Creating a Happy Workplace At Your Animal Hospital: Part 1

happy workplace

By Dennis McMichael, Practice Manager — Animal Hospital of Dauphin County

Throughout my youth and professional career I’ve had the pleasure of serving on and leading many teams with a variety of purposes and goals.  In each instance a number of consistent factors contributed to each team’s success, failure, and, ultimately, happiness.  And in each instance the team’s happiness could be directly attributed to our performance and application of those factors as a team.  While it would be nearly impossible to list all of the factors contributing to a happy team and workplace, the following list captures the top factors that I consider to be the most consistently impactful in cracking open your workplace Zen (as a team).

1. Be Humble (as a team): We all have faults.  The sooner we are able to acknowledge and accept this fact, the sooner we move past reactive and guarded habits and progress towards becoming proactive producers.  Some of the best people to have on your team are the ones who ask a lot of questions and force the team to rethink what they thought they already knew.  Leaders are no exception to this trait — as a matter of fact, leaders stand to gain even more from their own humbleness by forging important relationships and better understanding the resources available to them.

2. Communicate (as a team): Every success and failure begins and ends with productive communication or a lack thereof.  It is as simple as that, yet, we continually fall into the traps created by lack of communication or even unproductive communication.  A successful and happy team’s habitual response to unexpected adversity is productive communication.  This often takes the form of a 5 minute “huddle” to discuss the issue at hand, identify resources and possible solutions, and plot the path to success.  As humans contentedness is equivalent to happiness.  Internalized stress is commonly one of the largest barriers to contentedness.  The habitual response of productive communication and group problem solving eliminates this barrier before it even has a chance to take shape.

3. Create a Culture of Solutions (as a team): How much of your team’s time is lost to idle complaints?  Beyond time, what is the impact of idle complaining on individual and team morale?  Many people complain simply because it requires less effort than solving the problem in the first place; however, this is where the power of the team really comes to life.  If the team publicly recognizes their distaste for idle complaining, the team can successfully outlaw the behavior from the workplace and replace it with an expectation of productive communication.  Much like Planet Fitness’ “Lunk Alarm” combats “gymtimidation”, a staff unified towards productive communication is empowered to recognize and refuse idle complaining in a more comfortable manner that encourages productive solutions and a happy workplace.

4. Celebrate Your Successes (as a team): The ever-increasing demand for efficiency is at odds with the need for workplace happiness.  How many times have you thought “That was really a great accomplishment and it needs to be recognized when time allows.”?  Did you do it?  Did you do it publicly?  Celebrating successes boosts morale while providing a positive reinforcement of the team’s shared goals.  Additionally, creating a ‘shout out’-friendly environment can do wonders in promoting individual and team senses of self-worth.  These gestures are a catalyst for kindness.  No, the team doesn’t need to spend the entire day patting each other on the back.  Staff meetings, internal newsletters, group emails, suggestion boxes, bulletin boards, etc. can all serve as appropriate forums to share the love!

5. Own Your Mistakes (as a team): So you made a mistake — now what?  Human nature and tradition seem to tell us to shy away and let someone else fix it but where’s the growth in that?  Recognize the opportunity and turn the situation on its head.  The team and/or team member stand to gain valuable knowledge and insight by assessing the situation and envisioning a reasonable solution.  Furthermore, what could have been a confidence-draining experience can — if handled properly — become a confidence-building morale booster.  Finally, is there a lesson learned that can be used to benefit team members not specifically involved with this opportunity?  Make sure that teachable moment is appropriately shared and utilized!

Check back for Part 2 and my remaining 5 tips for a happy workplace!

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