4.6.12 Issue #526 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter
 


Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Dealing with Bad Behavior
Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

A few weeks ago, a JetBlue captain was locked out of the cockpit by his co-pilot after he began acting erratically on a flight from New York to Las Vegas. It was yet another episode in which airline crew members became agitated to the point they had to be restrained by passengers.

The magnitude of these incidents seems beyond the scope of a dental office, and hopefully your patients will never need to wrestle an employee to the ground. But at some point, one of your employees may behave badly. After all, people wear down. They get overwhelmed or preoccupied by things at home or outside of work. Sometimes, those commonplace stressful moments keep building until a meltdown happens - and it can happen to even the most professional employee.

Everyone has a bad day at work once in a while and it's important to address unacceptable actions promptly. If ignored, inappropriate behavior is likely to increase rather than just go away. Certainly there are some actions that will proactively minimize the chance of a major disruption. Here are some options.

1. Encourage Communication at Work
Discussing workplace stress and blowing off a little steam is important. Nobody wants to create a negative atmosphere with non-stop ranting about work, but talking about frustrations or challenges is healthy. Be attuned to the mood and mindsets of your employees, especially if you know they are experiencing some challenges outside of work.

2. Offer a Helping Hand
Though you clearly want to respect everyone's privacy, ask your employees if everything is OK. If he or she discloses a problem, encourage them to find solutions. Direct them to resources that will help with issues like child care, elder care and drug and alcohol dependency.

3. Assess the Workload
Meltdowns are also more likely to happen if a larger portion of the workload is resting on one set of shoulders. Even if you are incredibly busy, take the time to cross-train employees whenever you can. The investment of time pays off handsomely when those co-workers are able to take on a bigger workload.

If bad behavior gets repeated despite your efforts to curtail, redirect or stop it, it's time to take more serious steps. A meltdown could result in probation, suspension and ultimately termination. If the issue is important enough to trigger a meltdown, it should be a priority to address it starting with a serious and formal conversation that is done privately. The best location would either be in your office, with the door closed, or in a neutral setting like a conference or break room.

4. Communicate Expectations
Clearly define what you expect in terms of performance and behavior. For example, emphasize that while she has excellent technical skills, Suzie also needs to have positive interpersonal behavior such as helpfulness and cooperation with co-workers. As the Office Manager, she must build team identity and handle situations with diplomacy and tact. This requires listening well and seeking mutual understanding. Although she does not need to “like” everyone on the team, she absolutely must be respectful - no matter how upset she is. Yelling and throwing papers is not acceptable, bottom line.

5. Identify the Gap between Expectations and Observed Behavior
Be specific by focusing on changeable actions. For Suzie, these might include rolling her eyes when team members ask questions or suggest ideas, coming back late from lunch, making personal phone calls or surfing the internet during work hours, or talking in a loud and demeaning tone to others. Stay focused on what Suzie says and does in the most concrete descriptions.

6. Clarify the Rewards
Identify the benefits of meeting the expectations - i.e. job security, future opportunity and value to the practice to name a few. Be sure to express your appreciation to Suzie and emphasize what a great job she does with insurance and billing. Let her know that you want her to continue to work with you and that she needs to make changes in her behavior. 

7. Spell-Out the Consequences
Voice concern to Suzie that the way she has treated co-workers suggests she is not happy. Underscore that you want her to feel satisfied and to enjoy her job. Avoid ultimatums. Focus on the impact of poor performance, to the team and ultimately to the employee.

8. Allow Employees the Opportunity to Choose Their Own Path
One road leads to rewards, and the other leads to new adventures - including the option to leave. Your practice may not be the best place for Suzie if she can't get along with the other members of the team. Be truthful and kind as you lay out the choice.

Surveys indicate that workplace stress costs the nation close to $300 billion each year in terms of health care, work absenteeism and rehabilitation. More than ever employers can no longer brush aside the ever increasing concern of stress in the workplace, because it has become clear that mismanagement of this problem cuts deeply into profits and productivity.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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