Problem Staff - Are You In Denial?
Dr. Timothy sat across the table from Erica. It was a conversation that was long overdue. Erica had been with the practice for eight years. She was a bright woman. She brought many good ideas. When she was “on” she was impressive. As the cliché goes, she could sell ice to an Eskimo. A patient would be on the fence about treatment and she would start talking to them about the process and the outcome and how the doctor is an expert at the procedure, and invariably the patient would hop off the fence and on to the schedule.
For the most part, patients loved her. The staff, however, not only saw the other side, they felt it, day after day. From where they sat, Erica was a classic manipulator. She was controlling and narcissistic. She had held a variety of roles in dental practices over the years. She started out as an assistant, but didn’t care for the hands-on patient experience. She went to college and got a degree in business with a minor in marketing. She saw herself as an expert on both clinical and management issues. And she eventually talked Dr. Timothy into naming her office manager.
In staff meetings she took over. Dr. Timothy would dutifully gather the team once a month. Each person would be charged with reporting on their respective areas, offering ideas, suggestions, areas to consider for improvement. And there was Erica, never without an opinion, never at a loss for words, or criticism, or thoughts on how all the others should be performing their jobs differently. She justified her behaviors by regularly reminding the group that as office manager, she felt an obligation to ‘clarify’ or ‘set the record straight’ or ‘point out’ … and then she would launch into her latest diatribe.
Dr. Timothy would try to gently redirect Erica, but this high-speed locomotive ran right over the good doctor each and every time. After the meetings, team members would retreat to their respective areas. Dr. Timothy would do damage control and patch the wounds as best he could. Erica would return to the front desk and carry on as if she were queen.
Erica had been a hard worker, but issues arose over the past couple of years that went well beyond her abrasive behaviors with colleagues. She was frequently late for work. She would miss the daily huddle at least twice a week. The office needed another business employee, but no one could work for Erica. The practice had spun through three well-qualified business employees in the past 18 months. The rest of the staff did their best to steer clear, but in a dental practice avoiding a coworker is practically impossible. At least every other week a group of staff would be in a closed-door meeting with the doctor about Erica’s latest affront.
Dr. Timothy had his own frustrations. He wanted to grow the business and was intent on implementing management systems that would enable him to do so. Erica continued to erect barriers. Dr. Timothy wanted to explore cloud-based practice management software options. Erica would promise to do the research, but never followed through.
The list of issues with Erica only grew. The culture in the office had become so toxic that some of the others began to claim that Dr. Timothy was giving Erica preferential treatment and the office was bordering on a hostile work environment. Dr. Timothy knew he had been in denial. He had hoped that the high-performing Erica he once knew would return. He tried to talk to her on multiple occasions asking her to make improvements. Each time, Erica promised she would change. And she would improve for a while, but invariably the difficult behaviors would return.
From where Dr. Timothy stood, he felt he had two choices; neither option was appealing. He could continue to make excuses for Erica and hope that she would change, or he could begin termination procedures. It would be the most difficult and anxiety ridden exercise he would ever face. And it was one that he had tried to dodge for months, if not years.
Sadly, he knew full well that he had become a sideline spectator. He watched as low morale and employee turnover turned his respectable practice into a mediocre office.
Next week, don’t want to fire an employee? Do this instead.
For more information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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