7 Signs You Have An Unhappy Veterinary Employee (And What To Do)

8 min read
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A veterinary practice that’s running smoothly with happy employees all the time is the dream. However, it is not a reality for all practices!

Unfortunately, the likelihood that you have at least one unhappy veterinary employee, who may negatively impact team morale and practice productivity, is not that low. According to research by Robert Half UK, more than 13% of UK employees are unhappy at work, which is more than 4.3 million people in the UK. They further stated that only 42% of employees are happy with their company’s rewards and recognition.

Although in most cases, identifying an unhappy veterinary employee is relatively straightforward, there is always the chance of missing the obvious signs.

With that said, in this blog, we give you seven signs that help you identify a disgruntled employee in your practice and explain what you can do to make them happier.

Free Download: Veterinary Employee Happiness Survey Template

Table of contents: 

  1. They engage less with co-workers
  2. Their productivity decreases
  3. They start showing up late and leaving early
  4. They don’t participate in team activities outside of the office
  5. They don’t offer feedback or suggest new ideas
  6. They start receiving complaints from customers 
  7. They’re frequently absent or continuously ask for time off

1. They engage less with co-workers 

A report on Employee Engagement by TINYpulse indicates that co-workers stimulate the most amount of happiness among employees. When practice team members collaborate well and entrust each other with details around their personal lives, it promotes a positive environment that leads to happiness. Furthermore, good working relationships are a sign of workplace happiness.

If employees don’t seem to get on with one another or you notice a sudden change in the social interactions between one or a few employees of your practice, it may suggest a problem is present. This can often be due to a displeased team member.

If you notice that team members are not getting along, try to invest time in team building. Arrange work drinks night or fun teamwork activities for all practice employees to enjoy – this can help build relationships and ease tensions. If issues still occur, try to speak to each team member individually to get to the problem’s root. Like most things, communication is critical here.

2. Their productivity decreases

Suppose an employee in your practice demonstrates a decline in their quality of work and productivity. There’s a possibility they are disillusioned or disappointed within their role. 

Some practice employees may disengage and ‘check out’ of their roles entirely. These employees often miss deadlines, or their completed work will appear sloppy or entirely below par. This would be particularly noticeable if the employee in question was once remarkable and extremely productive. 

Learn why practice staff are more productive and likely to remain loyal when happy 

It would help if you established a dialogue with the employee in question to ensure everything is okay, both at work and home. If they are experiencing trouble with family life, this might affect work. Equally, if they suffer from burnout from being overworked or lose motivation for the role, it’s worth carrying out an appraisal to understand what you can do to help going forward.

3. They start showing up late and leaving early

Employees that love their practice environment and enjoy being around their fellow colleagues generally look forward to heading into the practice every morning, they’re usually also the last ones to leave the office.

On the other hand, if you notice a practice employee who frequently turns up to the office late and can’t wait to get out of the doors at the end of the day,  it could be an indication of unhappiness in the workplace.

You can avoid such situations and improve employees’ motivation to get to work by organizing fun day-starter events like yoga or morning coffee and snacks. You can even arrange a morning chat or a daily fun meeting with your teammates to make the start of the day more desirable. The key here is building a sense of ‘togetherness’ and building relationships that extend beyond veterinary discussions.

4. They don’t participate in team activities outside of the practice

When practice employees are confident and happy in their work environment, they usually spend additional time trying to get to know their colleagues. They initiate conversations and take time to get involved in team activities outside of work. We know this isn’t always the case, as some practices don’t actively encourage staff to do this.

That said, if the practice management team makes the effort to promote socializing outside of work and this is the norm, veterinary employees who are reluctant to join in could be unhappy and it’s worth spending some time to ensure there aren’t any issues.

Furthermore, it’s worth pointing out that an employee not being involved in social activities does not always mean that they are one of the unhappy veterinary employees. There are some employees who are introverts and prefer leaving work at work and not mixing professional and social lives.

If you notice that there is a lack of socializing or participation in outside work activities, we suggest you arrange team outings or fun ways to build relationships among employees.
If your workplace already has a culture for going out and socializing outside of work hours and an employee is reluctant to join in, speak to them. Ask what activities they’d like to do. Maybe get them to suggest the team outing. If all else fails, arrange a quick chat to find out what may be bothering them.

5. They don’t offer feedback or suggest new ideas

This is something that is common with introverts, so use this sign cautiously. However, if you have a practice employee who usually offers feedback in meetings and contributes new ideas, and that suddenly stops, it could be a sign that they are feeling disheartened and unmotivated in their role.  

If you feel this is the case, try to organize a group brainstorming session once a month which combines a relaxed, informal approach to problem-solving with lateral thinking. It will encourage the employee to come up with thoughts and ideas. Don’t be afraid to make this fun. Maybe order in a pizza or beers and wine and make it an occasion.

6. They start receiving complaints from customers

The level of service offered is one thing that can suffer when you have an unhappy veterinary employee, whether intentional or unintentional. Therefore, if you start noticing service levels dropping or more complaints from customers, it could be a sign of an issue with employee happiness. This is quickly noticeable with bad online reviews on platforms such as Google & Yelp.

Here are five tips on how veterinary practices can Deal with Negative Online Reviews 

One of the best ways to promote a better service could be to offer a reward for a defined number of positive reviews from pet owners via review platforms like Google My Business, Capterra, Facebook, or Yelp, or even on a review book at the practice reception. If this doesn’t have the desired impact, it is worth bringing the employees’ attention to the recent feedback and offer support. Ask them how you can help and if there are any issues, they may confide in you at this point.

7. They’re frequently absent

You can quickly notice disengaged employees as they are more frequently absent from the veterinary practice. There is a cost of $2,650 per salaried employee per year due to the loss of productivity due to absenteeism, and therefore, it is important to tackle early. 

Keep an eye on the employees who repeatedly take days off at short notice. There is a possibility that they’re experiencing issues with their role and are not motivated to come in.

You can improve your employee attendance by launching initiatives that promote good attendance, such as rewards and bonuses. If attendance is still an issue, speak to the employee in question and ask what you can do to help. Perhaps offer flexible or remote working too if you’re able, as an unbalanced work/life can negatively impact employee happiness.


An unhappy veterinary employee is not good for any practice, negatively impacting team morale and productivity. In most cases, they’re easy to spot, especially if you’re looking out for the right signs, such as those given above.

If you do identify an unhappy veterinary employee, take some time to re-engage and motivate them. You could arrange a catch up to talk about how things are going or offer to tweak their role to include more responsibility if you feel they lack a challenge. The key is taking the time out to communicate and offer support wherever possible.

There will always be factors out of your control, and sometimes the best thing for both parties is to separate; however, this should be a last resort before trying to resolve issues.