Think itís Time to Fire a Team Member? Read This First
Dealing with problem employees is never easy, which is why most dentists do their best to avoid it as long as they possibly can. They tell themselves these team members will eventually get it together, so they ignore any issues they’re causing in the practice, whether their poor performance is hurting practice production or leading to conflict with other team members.
Yes, most dentists want nothing to do with disciplining or, even worse, firing employees, but unfortunately it’s a necessary part of your role as practice CEO. If you don’t address concerns and employees continue to display poor attitudes, deliver lackluster performance and less-than stellar customer service, it’s doing nothing but hurting your practice. You’ll start seeing increased turnover, reduced patient retention numbers and a shrinking bottom line, which I’m sure doesn’t describe the successful practice you envisioned when you first decided to become a dentist.
As difficult as it might be, there comes a time when you must address the problem employees who are holding your practice back. Maybe that comes in the form of additional training or offering feedback on how they can improve, but keep in mind there are times when employees, whether they’re new or have been with your practice for years, simply must be dismissed.
And there are plenty of reasons you might want to consider dismissing employees. Here are a few:
- They refuse to follow established office policies
I’ll stop there, but the list goes on and on. No matter what issues they’re causing in your practice, I suggest you deal with problem employees using a clearly established progressive discipline system. How exactly does that work, you ask? Basically, the penalties become stronger if the employee misconduct or poor performance is repeated. Discipline might start with a verbal reprimand, proceed to a written reprimand, then suspension, and ultimately termination – with everything documented along the way.
Unless the employee’s behavior is so bad you need to take immediate action, this process should take place over a 60-90 day period, giving the employee plenty of opportunity to make the necessary changes. Be sure to explain to the team member, both verbally and in writing, the specific issues that are not satisfactory. Then, document exactly what needs to change.
Sit down with each employee to develop an agreement that clearly spells out those changes. This agreement should be in writing, signed by both you and the team member and then placed in his or her file.
In a perfect world, employees who go through the discipline process will see exactly what they’re doing wrong and be willing to make the necessary changes to meet and even exceed your expectations. Yes, that would be great, but it isn’t what usually happens. Poor attitude or a lack of skills will continue to play a role in performance, and that means you’ll likely have to terminate these employees. Make sure you’re prepared.
Part of that means monitoring the employee’s progress and providing regular feedback as he or she works to make improvements during the disciplinary procedure. Remember to document every step and every conversation. This clearly shows you didn’t just decide to terminate a team member on a whim; even after given the opportunity, the employee chose not to correct the problems identified. You simply took the next and final step in the progressive discipline plan.
You didn’t become a dentist because you wanted to deal with these types of human resources issues, but if you choose to ignore them it will only hurt your practice and the rest of the team. I know this can be difficult, so if you need more guidance don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ll help get you through the process so you can find and hire team members who know what it takes to move the practice forward, instead of holding it back.
Next week: How to fire a team member
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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