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It’s always difficult to see the world from somebody else’s perspective as our own internal biases get in the way. For example, it is a common frustration for vets that their boss doesn’t allow them to have control over their circumstances either by not listening to suggestions or being a micromanager but if we switch it around, a boss or manager is likely to feel they are protecting their staff by taking control over all the difficult decisions and they need to concentrate on the urgent pile of work in front of them not have it added to by suggestions from employees.

This little table came about over dinner with my husband a few weeks ago and I was curious to see what people thought about it. Which perspective are you coming from?

I’m protecting my staff by taking responsibility for decisions and hiding painful truths from them.My boss is a micromanager. I don’t have any control or authority. I don’t ever really know what’s going on. The only news we get is when things have already reached an avoidable crisis.
I’m responsible for the business. I’ve done all the courses and been doing it for years.The boss thinks he knows everything and has an ego the size of a house that needs massaged frequently. Resistant to change, it’s his way or the highway.
I need to run a successful business so that my employees have a job and get paid.The practice doesn’t know what it stands for or why we do this. We just work to earn him money and don’t know what happens to it. Why can’t I get a pay rise inline with inflation?
I work 14 hours a day plus weekends and evenings at home to keep this practice afloat. Nobody appreciates me.The boss sets a bad example on boundaries and because he works all hours, he sets an unreasonable expectation that we all have to do the same.
I want it to be clear how I want the work done.The boss has rigid protocols and we are disciplined if we stray from them. We’re all intelligent individuals being used as unthinking meat-bots.
I’ve been doing this for 30 years. Staff don’t see the big picture, it’s in my head.We never get asked anything, we have no input, I have great ideas that can’t be heard. I don’t know why I bother.
Clients come first because they pay the bills. We need to service their needs.We have no boundaries and have to work through the lunch break because we aren’t allowed to say ‘no’ to customers. The customer is always right, the boss always sides with them giving them discounts when they are difficult and never has my back.
I’m protecting my staff from difficult clients by appeasing them with things like discounts if they complain.The boss undermines us and doesn’t stand up for us. He encourages and reinforces clients’ bad behaviour by his actions.
I can’t delegate things because it won’t be done right and it’s my business at risk.My boss doesn’t trust me to make decisions. I don’t feel safe to tell him if something goes wrong.

The boss in all these examples is trying to do the right thing under pressure. They’re not deliberately being obstructive or difficult but in my experience – and any many others’ by the looks of things – their ‘helpfulness’ and self-sacrifice is what’s often the root cause of many of the most annoying problems around the practice. These are the problems that on their own are only small annoyances – sharp edges, if you will – that aren’t a huge deal in themselves but make everything else harder or more involved than it need be and together add up to a whole load of dissatisfaction. Sharp edges for which there is a trivial, cheap, functional solution that the boss simply won’t acknowledge because it’s so far below their ‘what’s today’s crisis’ radar that they’re just not worth considering.

In my opinion, most of these bosses are well-meaning but don’t have the right mindset or skills and training. They’re simply thinking as a vet and not a business or team manager. If this suggestion is correct, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem – there is. It neatly explains why your boss seems surprised when you go to them with a problem, especially when the underlying problem is them. They’re surprised because from their point of view they’ve been doing all they can not to cause you problems and the suggestion that they’re maybe behind them is a real slap in the face. Also, in my experience bosses don’t think about how their actions and management style comes across to their employees and wonder why their employees are dissatisfied and disengaged.

The question is, what to do about it? Does this idea have any foundation? Answers on a postcard (a.k.a. comments box below).