“If you REALLY cared about animals, you would help me”
“Profit shouldn’t come before lives”
“All you care about is money”
If you work with animals, and especially in the veterinary field, you have heard this many times. Sometimes many times per shift. Not only is responding to these statements exhausting, but it’s infuriating. If you cared about money you would have chosen another profession. Caring for animals is not a lucrative career, despite what people think based on their veterinary bills. The average person has no idea what amount of money and time goes into the background of running an animal care facility or clinic. It’s not their job to know, all they know is that they can’t afford fluffy’s treatment and that brings up a lot of negative emotions for them. They’re unsure of how to deal with it all, so they project it onto the person in front of them or even on the clinic as a whole. This post is not about explaining this, however if you’re interested in reading a great piece about it Sarah Boston wrote an article describing this occurrence and you can read it here.
This is about what happens AFTER the emotional blackmail, online bashing, and guilt/anger/pain that comes along with each and every one of these scenarios. This is about how to care for yourself when you’re going through the aftermath of the client freakout. Here are some steps that can help.
- Reach out to people who ‘get it’. There are communities on social media where people in the industry of animal care can reach out to their colleagues and explain their situation. Sometimes talking with others who have been there helps us to not feel so alone and isolated. This on its own can be therapeutic.
- Increase your self-care. Do your best to take breaks, eat regular meals, turn off social media, try to ignore the sh*tstorm. As with many storms, they will blow over with time. Due to confidentiality, if your client goes online to voice their disappointment, sharing your side of the story is often not an option. Therefore, having an open and honest discussion with your team (you have a team with you, after all) and journaling your side may help to release some of the frustration. Also, some form of activity where you can release tension (team axe throwing? Kickboxing?) Whatever your jam is – do it and bring your team!
- Ask for help. Whatever this looks like for you. If this is some serious bashing or you’re starting to doubt yourself then this may mean contacting a therapist who can help you manage negative emotions, contacting a veterinary PR company, asking for mentorship from someone who has been there, and whatever else you feel you may need. Well-being can be regained and maintained if you ask for help.
- Set boundaries. We teach people what we will and will not tolerate. If you have a client or member of the public berating you or your services then you do not need to work with them. Leave the negative emotions where they belong – you don’t need to then take the negativity and direct it towards your team members. Also, try your best to leave work at work and not bring home the baggage that comes with the stress of working with animals and members of the public. Your team and family deserve the best you and you’re not the best version of yourself if your brain is stuck at work or stressed about the day (I will write a blog post at a later date about this as this can get lengthy)! Share with them that you’re struggling with the negativity, and they may find ways to brighten up your day or even share that they’re struggling, too. Then you can all work together to bring each other up!
- Remember that you’re human, only one person, and you’re not perfect. You can’t solve every single problem you come across. The animal care field is full of perfectionists and high-achievers who excel at their work so when someone bashes or questions their commitment to helping, it hurts. You are human and it’s not your fault that a client can’t afford medical care for their pet – even if they try to put the burden of guilt and blame on you.
I want to hear everyone’s thoughts. How do you deal with the emotional blackmail and moral injury that comes along with your job? What tips do you think I should add? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know!