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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Babb, CVPM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, RVT

HR Bingo Ball

A veterinarian friend of mine once compared managing HR issues to being on the receiving end of a high velocity bingo ball machine. The machine would shoot out a ball with a random letter and number combination, and as a practice manager you had to catch the ball and deal with whatever it was. If you were lucky, you were able to resolve the issue before the machine spat out the next ball, and if not, you would have to juggle that ball and simultaneously be ready to catch the next one.

Some of the bingo balls were illegible, so the exact issue was unclear. Some of the balls would roll out of sight, where they would remain lost, unreachable and forgotten among the dog fuzz. Sometimes the machine would mangle the ball beyond recognition, and you had to guess at what the issue even was. Other times the machine would malfunction and send out several bingo balls at once, and if you weren’t at the ready with your net, you would be pummeled until you wanted to just curl up in the fetal position until the barrage was over. Sound familiar?

This time of year, in the height of summer and with clients being allowed back into the building in many practices, it may feel as if the bingo ball machine has taken on a mind of its own. The volume of bingo balls has multiplied exponentially. There are new letter and number combinations that didn’t exist before.

HR issues are widely varied, unpredictable, and occupy such a significant portion of management time. Dealing with poor performance, toxic employees, misconduct, eroding culture, mental health and medical concerns, hiring, excessive tardiness, keeping up with reviews, mediating employee disputes… the list is endless.

And there are several bingo ball machines going at once, not only HR, but client service, workflow issues, inventory, financials, controlled substances, scheduling, marketing, the ceaselessly overflowing toilet…

Practice managers have superpowers, but we are not superhuman. Remember that sometimes you can only deal with what is right in front of you. There will always be another bingo ball (or 20) waiting to be pop out. Give yourself permission to focus your full attention on the one at hand, and then move on to the next. Some bingo balls need to be set aside in piles to deal with later. Other bingo balls require the assistance of others.

It may be challenging, and goes against our very nature as managers, but sometimes the best thing is to simply turn your back on the stupid machine and walk away. Go spend a few minutes laughing with your team or chatting with your clients. Take a patient outside to enjoy the sun. Go look up at the sky and just breathe. Clear your mind so you are better equipped to deal with the issues. The bingo balls will always be there when you return.


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