To Coach or Not to Coach
A letter exchange about a Front Office employee…
We have a Front Desk person who may need coaching and we were wondering if that would be something you could assist us with. Mary has been with us for two years and is wonderful at scheduling, collecting, insurance and running the office systems. Unfortunately, she is sometimes rude to our patients and referral practices, especially if she is "hurried" or under stress at the front. We received a few negative phone calls about her a year ago and addressed the issue with her at that time. We also had her take a class on Customer Service. When she came back, she informed us that she did not learn anything new, but Dr. Jones thought she had improved.
We have again received a phone call from one of our referral dentists who said that he has sent at least $20,000 worth of work this year to another periodontist as his patients will not deal with Mary. Our best referral dentist informed us that he had three of his patients complain about her in one week!
I spoke with Mary about this matter again. She said she is just doing her job and people are too sensitive. Will you be able to assist us in getting her to change this behavior/personality trait? We really would like to keep her, but obviously we cannot lose our business because of her.
Hello Judy ~
The best approach is to be “above board” with Mary. Identify the specific behaviors that you want her to demonstrate with patients and referring sources. With her input, develop a plan for how she will learn and use those behaviors. Schedule routine meetings with her to follow up on this action plan and to note her progress. My role will be to talk with Mary individually, then separately with you and Dr. Jones. After those conversations, I will facilitate a dialogue between all of you. In addition to coaching with me, Mary may benefit from McKenzie’s Front Office Training.
I spoke with Dr. Jones about helping Mary with her rude behavior to our patients. He is wondering if you can alter Mary’s behavior in speaking with her (and us), or if it is her personality which may not be able to be changed.
I should tell you that I had trained Mary for eight months, and then left the office a year and a half ago on a maternity leave of absence. I still do the payroll and keep the books, but basically try to stay out of the office due to Mary’s attitude toward me. We did get along well while I was training her but soon after I left the office her attitude changed radically. Dr. Jones and I had a meeting with Mary about this and her behavior did improve.
Hello Judy ~
Q: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?
Therein lies the issue – how much of Mary’s behavior is she willing to change? As with most people, the question is what’s in it for her to want to modify the way she acts? The answer is connected to her values and what’s important to her.
You have given Mary feedback, training and then more feedback. Each time there were positive results, but only for a short time before backsliding into old behavior. This is less of a training or coaching issue and more of a discipline problem. Some people are unwilling to look at themselves. They fear change and/or they are so well-defended they don’t see how they impact others. For that reason, I think it’s time to consider termination more than coaching.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
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