9.5.14 Issue #652 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Donít Want to Fire an Employee? Do This Instead
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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The task of letting an employee go is one of the most difficult and anxiety ridden exercises that a dentist will face during his/her career. It is for that reason that doctors often go to great lengths to avoid confronting staff on issues that beg to be addressed, namely surly attitude, poor performance, instigating conflict, poor patient service, failure to follow established policies and procedures, and the list goes on and on and on. Consequently, many dentists look the other way as poor performers slowly hijack their practices.

Too often the situation is allowed to fester until the dentist is forced to take action. The doctor must address the problem employee(s) in order to regain control of the practice. Invariably, these situations could have been avoided. Let’s rewind the tape and consider what should have been done differently to steer clear of the unpleasant and rocky road of employee termination.

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: 

1. Provide clear job duties to employees so they know exactly what is expected of them. You can download job descriptions on my website HERE.

2. Train new employees but don’t overwhelm them. A new hire will be far more likely to succeed if the training program allows them to assimilate information and tasks at a steady rate rather than a rapid-fire pace.

3. Give all employees 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 remain on the team.

4. Give ongoing direction and constructive feedback. Too many dentists wait until there’s a serious problem or crisis before they give staff any feedback. The doctor is in a highly frustrated state because s/he has allowed the situation to go on entirely too long. The employee feels blindsided and often will assert they had no idea the doctor wanted things to be “this way” or wanted “that done.”

5. Be specific. Don’t candy-coat the feedback and don’t beat around the bush. Be constructive, not punitive. Tell employees what they’re doing well and what needs to be corrected or adjusted to do even better. 

6. Know when to cut your losses. 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, and 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 an 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. But the doctor is prepared to take necessary action and the employee has been given the opportunity to address the issues.

For more information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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