It’s 7:35 a.m. and your team is assembled for the morning huddle. Well … that would be most of your team. Christine is late again. She’ll come dashing in breathless at any minute. Perhaps the excuse will be traffic, maybe her alarm didn’t go off again, or her mom called and she just couldn’t get her off the phone, her coffee pot caught on fire, she had an allergic reaction to her hairspray. Whatever today’s excuse is, it will no doubt be creative. In fact, if Christine would put as much effort into getting her herself to work on time as she does coming up with some novel reason why she can’t she might become a halfway decent employee.
Or perhaps in your office it’s the mercurial diva Deanna who gives you “the look” anytime she’s asked to stop what she’s doing and take care of something more pressing. Then there are the sighs of annoyance that hiss through the halls when a patient asks for a special appointment time, and the air of superiority that fills the room like a noxious odor when Deanna, who thinks this job is beneath her, is expected to fill a sudden opening in the schedule.
Circumstances such as those and countless others face dentists everyday as many struggle with their competing roles as CEO, human resources director, vice president of production, conflict mediator, and so on. Dental practices are small offices that depend on quality work from a cohesive team. There simply isn’t room for the pouting diva or the perpetually disorganized.
Certainly standing toe-to-toe with a troublemaker is not something many doctors signed on to do when they decided on a career in dentistry, and terminating an employee is viewed as an occupational hazard most will go to great lengths to avoid. Consequently, rather than face the unpleasantness, Dentists will bolt to the operatory and drown out the groans of disgruntlement with the whir of the hand piece. Yet personnel problems that typically start with seemingly minor annoyances, insignificant little bends in the rules, trivial personality snits can explode into all out wars that can rock your office to the foundation and force you to send employees packing or yourself into solitary confinement.
I recommend you fire up a few common sense human resources strategies, and address employee issues long before they require someone to stand before the firing squad.
- Provide clear job descriptions to employees, so they know exactly what is expected of them.
- Train new employees. Someone needs to help a new worker understand how things are done in this practice. Even if she/he has dental practice experience, no two offices are alike.
- Give the employee some form of personnel policy manual. This document spells out the office code of conduct, dress code, policies regarding tardiness, overtime, sick leave, office policies and procedures. All employees deserve to know the rules of the game and what they need to do to continue playing.
- Give direction and constructive feedback often. Too many practices wait until the 90-day review, or longer, before they give a new hire any feedback. Engage in some “fire prevention” early on and give feedback frequently from day one.
- Be specific. Don’t candy-coat the feedback and don’t beat around the bush. Tell employees what isn’t being done that needs to be done.
Know when to cut your losses. There are situations in which an employee is not going to work. Next week, terminating an employee and preserving the team.
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