Promoting from Within May Leave You Without
Certainly, there is a lot to be said for promoting from within. After all, you have an idea of the type of employee you are getting for the position. You have some understanding of her/his strengths and weaknesses. Presumably, this person knows the business, the patients, fellow staff, etc. What’s more, promoting from within can be an effective means of rewarding a staff member’s hard work and commitment to the practice.
However, it can also create problems, particularly in smaller dental practices, and especially if the internal promotion is to the position of office manager. Let me explain. For example, let’s say you have the very hard working and dedicated “Cari” on your staff. She is good at what she does, and always seems eager to take on new challenges. She understands the idiosyncrasies of the office, the staff, and the patients. The practice is growing and you believe the time is right to create the position of office manager. You naturally assume that Cari has the necessary qualities to take the job and run with it. You believe that because she is good at tasks “A” and “B,” she will also be good at “C” and “D.”
It’s a common error known as the “halo effect.” The problem is that the position of office manager requires a significantly different set of skills and a much higher competency level than what Cari has been expected to deliver up until now. The unfortunate fact is that good dental office employees don’t necessarily make the transition to good dental office managers. And anyone who has managed staff for any length of time has likely discovered that to be true.
But why don’t good employees seamlessly shift to higher level positions? After all, they have the potential, which is why they are considered in the first place. There are a host of reasons. In the case of Cari, she is given the title and the responsibility, but she struggles to effectively carry out the additional duties of the position. She finds it difficult to discipline former colleagues who are now subordinates. She feels insecure and unsure in exercising authority. She is unclear about how the doctor wants her to handle certain practice and employee policies, but she is afraid to ask for fear that the doctor will think she doesn’t know what she’s doing - because, well, she doesn’t.
It is not uncommon for employees like Cari to eventually leave the job, be let go, or be restructured out of the position. In the end, what should have been and could have been a rewarding and beneficial experience becomes demoralizing and frustrating for the employee, not to mention expensive for the doctor.
How do you prevent a costly employee failure? In most cases, the individual must overcome numerous hurdles that neither the doctor nor the employee anticipate or plan for. Most commonly when promoted to the position of office manager, existing employees are given little guidance and even less training. Too often doctors assume that “good” employees can simply figure out what it means to be an office manager. And frankly, most doctors don’t know what constitutes a “good” office manager, making it all the more challenging for them to help an employee succeed in the position. While the newly anointed office manager may get a nice title and a nicer paycheck, what is often in short supply is a clear job description. Too few doctors think carefully about the duties they expect the office manager to carry out, and even fewer ever consider the skill set necessary for these individuals to effectively perform their managerial duties.
That being said, I readily acknowledge that writing a job description for the position of office manager is no small challenge. Although the McKenzie Management website provides links to job descriptions for multiple positions in the practice, including scheduling coordinator, treatment coordinator, financial coordinator, patient coordinator, etc. - there isn’t one for an office manager. Why? Because different doctors interpret this position quite differently - and often incorrectly.
The majority of dental practice “office managers” answer phones, make appointments, construct financial arrangements, etc. These are the responsibilities of a front office employee or a business coordinator. Certainly, an office manager will step in and perform these duties when necessary as well. But the role stretches well beyond these tasks.
Next week, make the most of your office manager.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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