How to Fire a Team Member
No matter how you try to help her, your new Patient Coordinator just doesn’t seem to be working out. Not only does she display a negative attitude that brings the rest of the team down, she just doesn’t have the necessary temperament to succeed in the role. As much as you hate to admit it, she’s damaging your practice and you simply can’t let it continue any longer.
This is a scenario most dentists dread. The thought of letting an employee go puts them into a panic, so they ignore problems as long as they can. In the process, team morale suffers as does their bottom line. As difficult as it is, it’s important to have a progressive discipline procedure in place to deal with employees who exhibit toxic attitudes or who continually fail to meet performance expectations.
With this procedure, the penalties become stronger if misconduct or poor performance is repeated, and everything is documented. When employees see the documentation and understand the progressive discipline policies, they can’t deny they’re responsible for their actions and the consequences, even if that includes termination.
We talked about the 60-90 day progressive discipline procedure in last week’s article, but what happens when it’s time to actually sit down and tell an employee you’re letting him or her go? This is never easy, but unfortunately it’s sometimes necessary. No matter how much documentation you have or how confident you are in your decision, it doesn’t change the fact that you hate conflict and would rather be doing just about anything else.
That’s why I’m here to offer you some guidance. Here are the steps you should take when it’s time to terminate a team member:
• Meet with the team member in private, but also have a witness present. This could be your Office Manager, attorney or spouse. Remember to schedule the meeting at a time when no patients will be in the practice.
• Let the employee know why you want to meet so there’s no surprises.
• When talking with the employee, be very clear. The team member should understand that he or she is being dismissed. Don’t be vague, but also remember to be respectful.
• Don’t apologize for the action you’re taking and don’t place blame.
• Stick to the script you develop for yourself. Don’t say things like “I don’t want to do this,” or “I know how you feel.” Keep the conversation as short and to the point as possible.
• Let the employee speak, but don’t respond by trying to defend yourself or the practice, and certainly don’t become argumentative or admit to any wrongdoing. Stay calm and controlled, even if the employee throws out accusations or insults.
• Give the employee a check for earned salary and benefits before he or she leaves. If that’s not possible let the employee know when to expect final payment.
• When the meeting is over, have someone escort the now former employee to collect any personal belongings. This is also when he or she should return the office key.
• Before a terminated employee leaves, shake their hand and wish them luck. The key is to end on a positive note, but to not become involved in a long discussion. Now is the time for the former employee to leave the premises and move on to other opportunities.
Once he or she is gone, call a team meeting and let everyone know the person you just let go is no longer with the practice. It’s important they hear the news from you as soon as possible. Otherwise, gossip and speculation will begin to run rampant in the practice, hurting morale and production. Keep this meeting short as well. Even if team members ask, don’t go into any details about why you had to dismiss the employee.
I know letting a problem employee go is difficult, but once it’s done most dentists see an improvement in the practice and realize the termination was long overdue. Just remember you don’t have to go through this on your own. Give me a call and I’ll work with you to make the process as painless as possible.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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