A veterinarian in practice is ultimately responsible for providing advice in the area of animal health. One of the challenges faced by all new graduates is establishing trust with clients in order to ensure that this advice is considered. Many clients will have established a rapport with existing or previous staff members within the practice and some may have had an adverse experience with another veterinarian or new graduate. Moreover, you are attempting to persuade clients that your advice is informed and that you have their interests and the interests of their animals uppermost in your thoughts.


One perspective with respect to your ability to convince clients that you are able to offer veterinary advice is power. Power may be defined as the capacity to influence others

(Ivancevich, Olekalns & Matteson 1997) and there are a number of models available to us that define your potential sources of power.

French and Raven (1959) initially argued that there are five sources of interpersonal power: • • • • • Legitimate Reward Coercive Expert Referent

The first three of these listed below are largely based upon position whilst the latter two are personal sources of power.

Ivancevich, Olekalns and Matteson (1997) define legitimate power as that associated with position. Hence, your qualification as a veterinary surgeon will command some respect and power in a similar way to other professionals such as doctors and dentists. This aspect of power can be supported through dress (such as a lab coat or staff uniform, and a stethoscope), name tags and titles, and the display of qualifications.

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Finally. However. Olekalns & Matteson 1997). Expert power refers to the power that your specialised knowledge of animal health carries. Olekalns & Matteson 1997). This power relates not only to veterinary matters such as medicine and pathology but also para-veterinary matters such as industry knowledge and will ultimately be one of your most valuable sources of power as a new graduate. Page 2 of 4 . Similarly.Reward and coercive power refer to the ability to either reward or punish someone for adhering to your advice (Ivancevich. recognition of the role of clients in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions may be a more subtle application of this type of power in veterinary practice (see also reciprocity). favours and concessions (Cialdini 2001) all of which may again be applied to you as a new graduate. at an individual level it also refers to the histories of patients (read as much as you can prior to the actual consultation) so that you not only demonstrate knowledge but familiarity with a patient. providing a little extra service (customer delights) and if you do discount for example. Persuasion Cialdini (2001) has argued that six tendencies of human behaviour may impact upon your ability to persuade: • • • • • • Reciprocity Consistency Social validation Liking Authority Urgency Reciprocity refers to gifts. Recognition of owners and their efforts. attention to detail and genuine interest in that animal’s welfare. ensure that the client is fully aware of your role and the actual discount. Interpersonal skills are the basis of this form of power and some may also refer to this simply as your ‘bedside manner’. referent power is purported to be associated with charisma (Ivancevich. Legislative powers over issues of animal welfare are the obvious examples of this source of power.

With respect to liking. similarity and flattery. The latter implies that this whole area of influence and persuasion is equally applicable in working relationships. Social validation refers to the impact of peer pressure when we make decisions (Cialdini 2001). authority and empathy in handling such cases will be vital tests of your capacity to persuade. A healthy aspect of Page 3 of 4 . stories and experience are now vital elements in getting clients to like you. Discrepancies not only lead to doubts about your abilities (particularly as you are the new graduate). This pet is a vital member of their family. From a veterinary perspective your personal appearance. This is largely reflected in veterinary practice as ‘word of mouth’ advertising and will be dependent for you as a new graduate upon gaining some early successes with influential clients as well as support from your colleagues. they may also lead to more serious consequences such as litigation. Authority is basically associated with legitimate power whilst urgency is associated with your ability to convey the importance of a particular situation (Cialdini 2001). Trust and Empathy The overriding issue in establishing trust is empathy. new graduate and post graduate it is vital for you to understand and reflect upon how clients perceive you and the messages that you send them via your verbal and non-verbal communications. The production animal is linked to their livelihood and there may be a significant investment of personal resources (and emotions) attached to this presenting problem.Consistency refers not only to your advice and decisions but also to those of the practice. Cialdini (2001) includes aspects such as physical attraction. Once you have established the urgency of a scenario you are now in a key position to persuade someone how this problem should be addressed. Empathy for the client and their animal with respect to the presenting problem and empathy for the client and their perspective on you. Stories about your pets. a loved companion. As an intern. In veterinary practice life threatening cases and your competence. your experiences of rural life or your experiences as an intern or in work prior to graduation reveal a personal approach and empathy with the client that may facilitate them ‘liking’ and being persuaded by you. Ensure that if there are protocols within the practice that you are aware of these and if not that you fully communicate the process of patient management with your veterinary and support staff colleagues.

M 1997. It is worthwhile reflecting upon these theories. Influence: science and practice. Conclusion Theoretical models for power. Boston. influence and persuasion have generally been developed for social and business purposes however there are applications to veterinary practice life. Ivancevich. RB 2001. Sydney.veterinary practice is taking time to consider your practice and yourself from a client’s perspective. Allyn & Bacon. J. Organisational behaviour and management. your experiences and the client’s perspective when approaching the challenges of credibility associated with being an intern or new graduate in veterinary practice. References Cialdini. Page 4 of 4 . Irwin. Olekalns. M & Matteson. 4th edn.

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