Showing Gratitude to Your Team: 4 Ways to Make an Impact

To say this past year has been challenging would be an understatement. Most teams at veterinary practices are experiencing feelings of burnout and struggling to face the busy season that is upon us. One powerful antidote to this is showing gratitude to our team members to help them stay focused and feel truly valued.

The proof can be seen in employee appreciation surveys. SurveyMonkey and Bonusly paired up to ask more than 1,500 employees about their thoughts on employee recognition. A staggering 82% reported that having their hard work recognized is an important part of their happiness at work. For those employees who are consistently recognized at work, 63% stated they were very unlikely to look for a new job in the next 3 to 6 months. For those employees who felt they were not appreciated at work, 43% said they were extremely likely to look for another job.

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Not only does showing appreciation make employees feel seen and heard, but it can also help bond them to our practices longer. Here are some easy and effective ways to achieve that.

1. Feed the Heart and Stomach

The old maxim of the stomach being the path to the heart remains as true as ever. Nothing can make a bad day better like an unexpected treat. At our practice, we keep the fridge full of favorite beverages and snacks for the team. On Wednesdays, when we work until 8 p.m., we provide dinner. Each week, a different team member gets to choose the restaurant.

In your own practice, consider surprising your team members with homemade baked goods and keeping a stash of their favorite candy for any particularly tough days. You may be surprised at the positivity of the response.

2. Guard and Give Breaks

Like most teams right now, we could use another member to help shoulder the load. Although we can operate fairly effectively when we're short just one team member, anything more than that puts too much pressure on the team.

Regardless, one of the greatest ways of showing gratitude to your team is to zealously guard their free time, even when you know it may add stress and reduce business capabilities in the short term. Still, that's far better than impacting performance, service, and growth in the long view as employees start to feel burnt out and try to seek relief, which may include resigning from the job. Another good option is to give each employee a different mental health day; this way, they get the time to recharge one at a time.

Whichever approach you apply, make a point of communicating the reason to your team members; it'll go a long way in making them feel appreciated.

3. Plan a Group Outing

After a year and a half of living in a seemingly endless monotony and repetition, your team may particularly appreciate anything that breaks up the daily routine. Planning company-sponsored activities outside of the office can achieve this quickly, encouraging team bonding and offering the freshness of a new experience.

Consider closing early and taking your employees to dinner and drinks at a restaurant that has outdoor seating. Renting out a movie theater is surprisingly inexpensive and can provide a bit of normalcy that we all are craving right now. Or, if you have a small team, surprise them with a trip to Target with $100 gift cards and instructions that they can only spend it on themselves. Our practice has scheduled an afternoon of paintball, and I have no doubt that my employees will enjoy making me their target!

4. Speak your Employees' Language

One of the most helpful books I've read about showing appreciation to my staff has been "The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace" by Gary Chapman and Paul White. One of its major points is that not all of our employees appreciate the same things. For example, I have employees who love being recognized at staff meetings for their hard work and others who would want to cower in the corner if I singled them out. Some love the snacks in the breakroom and others see a sabotage of their healthy diet. Other employees really just want a genuine "thank you for being awesome with that difficult client today." Acting upon these differences shows employees that you really see and hear them in an individual way.

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Julie Miles

Julie Miles graduated from Ohio State in 2006. Dr. Miles spent two and a half years working in private practice. She then joined Lighthouse Veterinary Personnel Services in 2009, where she worked as a relief veterinarian and manager for five years. In 2014, she opened Compassionate Care Animal Hospital, which has grown into a two doctor practice. Her professional interests include client communications, preventative care, dentistry, and feline medicine. She and her husband, Dale, have two boys, Henry and Evan. In a previous life, she earned her Master's of Social Work and worked in crisis intervention and discharge planning. Some days that degree is more helpful than her DVM.

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