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11.25.05 Issue #194  
Marshalling the Fire Power

Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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You’ve tolerated the problem as long as you can. You’ve given the employee every opportunity imaginable. It’s time for them to go. But unlike Donald Trump and this week’s failed Apprentice, you can’t just call her/him into the conference room, point your finger, and bark, “You’re fired.” First, there must be a paper trail long and wide leading to this point of no return.

The process of terminating an employee begins well before you’re ready to escort her/him out of the building. Every conversation in which you discuss performance with the employee must be documented. You must explain to the employee verbally and in writing the specific issues that are not satisfactory and document what specific activities need to change in the employee’s performance. You and the employee must have an agreement on what she/he needs to do to improve performance. That agreement must be in writing, signed by both doctor and employee and placed in the employee’s file. You monitor the employee’s progress and give regular feedback and document every single step in the process.  We recommend The Employee Warning Form.

Ideally, at the end of this 60-90 day progressive discipline plan, the employee has had the opportunity to see the errors of her/his ways, make the necessary improvements, and everyone lives and works happily ever after. Unfortunately, the fairytale ending seldom occurs. Many dental practices do everything they can to help the employee become an effective member of the team only to be forced into eventually terminating the individual.

Oftentimes, the primary reason is a poor attitude, which manifests itself in a refusal to perform up to the practice’s standards or negativism that drags down the entire team. In other cases, the employee’s skills are weak and could be improved, but they won’t take the necessary steps to become a more effective member of the team. Or they make a half-hearted effort in which they will improve for a while then slip right back into their old ways.  In some situations, the employee’s conduct is so egregious that it requires immediate termination. Regardless of the circumstances, a cool head and careful preparation are a must. Do not let an employee go when you are angry. Take the following approach to marshal the necessary “fire power.”

  • Patients should not be in the office or expected in the office when an employee is being terminated.
  • Meet with the employee in private but have a witness present such as your attorney, office manager or spouse.
  • Tell the employee that the purpose of the meeting is to release them from their position.
  • Don’t rehash the details of the performance problems. Through the progressive discipline procedures, the employee has been provided numerous opportunities over the past 60-90 days to understand and address the performance issues.
  • Give the employee a check on the spot for earned salary and benefits or tell them to expect payment within a certain number of days.
  • The person then should be escorted to collect their personal belongings and hand over the office key.
  • When the employee is gone, call the team together and inform them that the employee is no longer with the practice. Do not get into any details regarding the dismissal. It’s important that the team hear from the doctor as soon as possible to avoid speculation and gossip. 
Although firing an employee is something extraordinarily difficult for most people, except perhaps the Donald Trumps of this world, once the step is taken most dentists find that it was the best thing they could have done for both themselves and the practice, and typically, it was long overdue.

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Jan. 26-28 Dallas, TX Dallas County Dental Society* 877-777-6151 Top Issues Sally McKenzie
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