1.28.11 Issue #464 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Haller, P.h. D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Time to Buck Up and Stop Enabling Problem Employees
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D., Leadership Coach McKenzie Management

Enabling is doing for others what they are capable of doing for themselves. The origin of the word comes from the treatment of substance abuse. Friends and family make excuses for unacceptable behaviors. They might call the alcoholic's boss to say they are sick with the flu when they are really hung over, or they refer to a teenager's drug use as “just a phase.”

The use of the word “enabling” has expanded beyond addiction and into the workplace. Thinking that they are helping or being kind, dental leaders ignore bad behavior and performance problems. Here’s one example I’ve heard on many occasions: your hygienist has a habit of retreating to the lunch room when she has a no-show or open slot in her schedule. You are annoyed that she’s reading a magazine when she could be assisting teammates with their workload but you don’t say anything. After all, she’s a good producer and you don’t want to upset her. You overlook her actions despite the fact that your frustration is mounting.

Over time you might decide to address the issue. In the morning huddle you make a blanket statement about how “we need to help each other out more,” hoping that she’ll know you’re talking to her. She doesn’t catch your drift, and nothing changes. What’s worse is that other staff notice the hygienist getting away with this. They see her as a diva and your lack of action as favoritism. They feel resentful. This leads to potential turf battles and escalating conflict. At the very least, the morale of the office declines.

When you ignore wrong actions, you demonstrate a laissez faire attitude on rules and office standards. Ultimately things can get too far out of control, and when you blow up and finally take action you play out as the “bad guy.” Ms. Diva’s behavior is the lesser of the problems now, because you come across as overly harsh due to all that unexpressed anger.

Remember, enabling is doing things for someone else that they CAN and SHOULD be doing for themselves. You are not being kind or helpful when you avoid important conversations, because you prevent the other person from experiencing the consequences of their own actions. More importantly, you deprive the person from fully reaching their own potential. When you address problems quickly and constructively, you allow people to recognize and accept the responsibilities and consequences of their own choices, rather than enabling the continuance of unacceptable behaviors to the detriment of everyone involved.

The University of Virginia published the following questions on enabling. How many “yes” answers do you have?

1. Do you often become frustrated or angry at the inappropriate behavior of a problem employee?
2. Do you deny inappropriate behavior or poor job performance by ignoring, minimizing, justifying or rationalizing it?
3. Do you believe the inappropriate behavior or poor job performance will improve without intervention, or that it isn’t really as bad as you think?
4. Do you spend a lot of time thinking or worrying about a problem employee?
5. Do you try to protect a problem employee from the consequences of his or her inappropriate behavior or poor job performance?
6. Do you feel pity and sympathy, especially when a problem employee complains about or is unhappy about personal problems?
7. Have you felt manipulated, used or betrayed by a problem employee when he or she promised to improve and didn't?
8. Have you frequently taken over the duties or responsibilities of a problem employee?
9. Have you consciously avoided a problem employee?
10. Do you lack clear, definite standards of performance and professional conduct for your employees?
11. Have you gradually lowered your expectations for acceptable job performance by a problem employee?
12. Do you avoid confronting employees about their poor job performance or inappropriate behavior?

Take accountability for any enabling behaviors you have. Stop trying to fix others, take control of yourself, and have the courage to change the things you can. And if you don’t know where to start, call me and we’ll develop a plan together.

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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