Many dentists will do everything they can to help a problem employee become an effective member of the team, only to be forced to eventually terminate the individual. Oftentimes, the primary reason is a poor attitude - the problem employee is so negative that she/he drags down the entire team. It is poison for any practice and must be dealt with swiftly.
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. They repeatedly fail to perform up to the practice’s standards. Or perhaps the employee makes a half-hearted effort to improve for a while, but eventually slips right back into their old ways.
With a progressive discipline procedure, the penalties become stronger if the employee misconduct or poor performance is repeated. For example, it may start with a verbal reprimand, proceed to a written reprimand, then suspension, and ultimately termination. When the employee sees the documentation and when they understand the progressive discipline policies, they cannot deny that they are responsible for their actions and the consequences. The dentist doesn’t just decide to terminate the employee on a whim, rather the employee chooses not to correct the problems and the doctor simply takes the next and final step in the progressive discipline plan - termination.
It all sounds neat and tidy, but what happens when you actually have to sit down and tell the employee? Yes, you have the documentation. Yes, you are confident in your decision. Yes, you have a contingency plan for how the individual’s duties will be handled until a replacement is hired. But you hate conflict. You fear the worst. You know what you have to do, but you are paralyzed and can’t seem to take the final actions. Now what? Press on. Take these measures in handling the final step:
When they are 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 extraordinarily difficult, once the step is taken most dentists find that it was the best thing they could have done, and, typically, it was long overdue.
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