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4 Ways to Support a Struggling Team Member

Updated: Oct 27

It’s no secret that working in the veterinary industry can be emotionally challenging. Whether it’s a non-stop day filled with urgent appointments, having to deal with a difficult client or helping a beloved long-term patient cross over the rainbow bridge, ‘a day in the life’ can be downright exhausting. Leaning on one another is essential to preventing burnout. When a team member appears to be struggling, here are four things you can do to help support them through it.

Know the Signs

People react differently to stressful situations, however, there are some common signs to watch for that could be a red flag that a coworker is in distress. Some of these signs include:

  1. Changes in performance;

  2. Making comments about sadness or hopelessness;

  3. Decrease in personal hygiene;

  4. Showing symptoms of possible substance use;

  5. Acting lethargic;

  6. Exhibiting an apathetic attitude.

If you notice any of these things, chances are your team member could use a helping hand.


The next thing you can when you notice a colleague may be having a difficult time is to approach them and let them know you understand what they’re going through. Tell them you’re there for them if they want to share and then put your money where your mouth is by genuinely listening. Oftentimes just acknowledging that it’s ok to experience the feelings they are experiencing and letting them know they’re not alone can do wonders for helping lift someone’s mood.

Offer Advice Only if Asked

Not every situation calls for a solution. In many instances, simply being able to get things off their chest may be enough to make a colleague feel better. Resist the urge to jump in and offer advice – even if you think it could be really helpful. Instead, wait for an invitation. Let your coworker know you have a few suggestions and ask if they’d be interested in hearing them. If not, don’t take it personal. They may come back to you later, but for now, just be a shoulder to lean on.

Be Specific

Blanket statements like, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do” are really not helpful, especially if you don’t have a close personal relationship with your colleague. Instead, focus on specific ways to lend a hand. For instance, if you notice your fellow Vet Tech seems to be feeling overwhelmed, offer to take their next patient for them so they can take a break. Simple gestures like this can provide a huge sense of relief to someone who is having a really rough day.

Supporting one another is the hallmark of a strong, successful team. In the veterinary industry, this is especially important. By knowing the signs to watch for and taking the right approach, you can help a colleague in need, build trust, strengthen your relationship and foster even better teamwork. In doing so, you’ll all be better able to provide exceptional service and support to your clients.

Our tips, tricks, and expert advice

What signs a team member in a veterinary practice might be struggling with?

Signs may include changes in performance, sadness or hopelessness, decreased hygiene, lethargy, or signs of substance use.

Should you always offer advice to a struggling team member?

No, it's best to offer advice only if asked. Sometimes, a team member may need to vent without seeking solutions.

How can supporting a struggling team member enhance your service and support to your clients?

Supporting a struggling team member can improve team cohesion, morale, and productivity, leading to better client service.

For more practice management tips, tricks, and expert advice, be sure to bookmark the DVMelite blog and check back often for fresh content.

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