Turn Up the Heat Before You Fire
Almost without exception, it is considered to be one of the most dreaded employment experiences. Most dentists would gladly opt for a day filled with screaming children, terrified adults, and gaping holes in the schedule than deal with the unpleasantness associated with this exercise. Few, if any, except perhaps Donald Trump, actually enjoy it.
Indeed, the task of letting an employee go is one of the most difficult and anxiety ridden exercises that a dentist will face during his or her career. It is for that reason that doctors will go to great lengths to avoid confronting an employee on issues that beg to be addressed - attitude, poor performance, instigating conflict, poor patient service, and the list goes on and on and on. Consequently, many dentists are the sideline spectator as low morale and continual employee turnover chisel away at the practice that has been hijacked by the poor performers.
There comes a point when the dentist must regain control of his/her practice and address the problem employee(s). But before that dreaded day arrives, let’s rewind the tape and consider what might have been done differently to avoid the current situation.
First, implement a few common sense human resources strategies and you’ll make significant strides in reducing the number and level of employee headaches you’ll have to face throughout your career. For example:
The fact is, there are times when employees - new or long-term - simply must be dismissed. They may fail to follow established office policies, they may be dishonest, argumentative, or difficult to get along with. They may fail to carry out responsibilities, or they may refuse to be a team player. They may gossip about patients, the doctor, other team members or bring down the practice morale with snide comments and cutting remarks. They may be late routinely or divulge confidential information. They may not follow directions or they may be secretive about steps they take in performing their responsibilities so as to make themselves seem irreplaceable. Unfortunately, there are a multitude of reasons why some employees don’t work out.
Whatever the reason, problem employees need to be dealt with directly and clearly using a clearly established system. Unless the employee’s behavior is so egregious that you are forced to take immediate action, the team member should be given the opportunity to improve her/his performance over a 60-90 day period. Explain to the employee verbally and in writing the specific issues that are not satisfactory and document exactly what needs to change in the employee’s performance.
With the employee, develop an agreement that spells out what s/he needs to do to improve performance. It should be in writing, signed by both doctor and employee and placed in the employee’s file. Monitor the staff member’s progress, give regular feedback, and document every step and every conversation in the process.
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.
Next week, you don’t need Arnold Schwarzenegger to be the terminator.
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
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