How to Fire a Team Member
No matter how you try to help her, your new Patient Coordinator just doesn’t seem to be working out. Not only does she display a negative attitude that brings the rest of the team down, she just doesn’t have the necessary temperament to succeed in the role. As much as you hate to admit it, she’s damaging your practice and you simply can’t let it continue any longer.
This is a scenario most dentists dread. The thought of letting an employee go puts them into a panic, so they ignore problems as long as they can. In the process, team morale suffers as does their bottom line. As difficult as it is, it’s important to have a progressive discipline procedure in place to deal with employees who exhibit toxic attitudes or who continually fail to meet performance expectations.
With this procedure, the penalties become stronger if misconduct or poor performance is repeated, and everything is documented. When employees see the documentation and understand the progressive discipline policies, they can’t deny they’re responsible for their actions and the consequences, even if that includes termination.
We talked about the 60-90 day progressive discipline procedure in last week’s article, but what happens when it’s time to actually sit down and tell an employee you’re letting him or her go? This is never easy, but unfortunately it’s sometimes necessary. No matter how much documentation you have or how confident you are in your decision, it doesn’t change the fact that you hate conflict and would rather be doing just about anything else.
That’s why I’m here to offer you some guidance. Here are the steps you should take when it’s time to terminate a team member:
• Meet with the team member in private, but also have a witness present. This could be your Office Manager, attorney or spouse. Remember to schedule the meeting at a time when no patients will be in the practice.
• Let the employee know why you want to meet so there’s no surprises.
• When talking with the employee, be very clear. The team member should understand that he or she is being dismissed. Don’t be vague, but also remember to be respectful.
• Don’t apologize for the action you’re taking and don’t place blame.
• Stick to the script you develop for yourself. Don’t say things like “I don’t want to do this,” or “I know how you feel.” Keep the conversation as short and to the point as possible.
• Let the employee speak, but don’t respond by trying to defend yourself or the practice, and certainly don’t become argumentative or admit to any wrongdoing. Stay calm and controlled, even if the employee throws out accusations or insults.
• Give the employee a check for earned salary and benefits before he or she leaves. If that’s not possible let the employee know when to expect final payment.
• When the meeting is over, have someone escort the now former employee to collect any personal belongings. This is also when he or she should return the office key.
• Before a terminated employee leaves, shake their hand and wish them luck. The key is to end on a positive note, but to not become involved in a long discussion. Now is the time for the former employee to leave the premises and move on to other opportunities.
Once he or she is gone, call a team meeting and let everyone know the person you just let go is no longer with the practice. It’s important they hear the news from you as soon as possible. Otherwise, gossip and speculation will begin to run rampant in the practice, hurting morale and production. Keep this meeting short as well. Even if team members ask, don’t go into any details about why you had to dismiss the employee.
I know letting a problem employee go is difficult, but once it’s done most dentists see an improvement in the practice and realize the termination was long overdue. Just remember you don’t have to go through this on your own. Give me a call and I’ll work with you to make the process as painless as possible.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
How to Eliminate Stressors and Empower Your Team
Case Study #407
The doctor’s concerns: When the doctor from this case study came to McKenzie Management, he was mentally exhausted. He was spending way too much time reminding team members of the tasks they needed to complete, which was adding extra stress to his work day. He wanted his team members to finally take control of their responsibilities so he could focus on treating patients.
• One doctor, one full-time assistant and one part-time assistant, one part-time hygienist and two full-time business coordinators
• The practice sees about 25 new patients a month and averages $86,000 in monthly collections
• The practice has three hygiene days per week
• Practice overhead is at 60%
The doctor considered his practice fairly successful, but knew he could do even better if he got more help from his team. Here’s a look at the stressors keeping this doctor and his team members from meeting their full potential and the recommendations we gave to alleviate those stressors.
Stressor 1: Practice systems are nonexistent. No one ever seems to know what to do because there are no written protocols.
Recommendation: Create a list of the tasks you feel team members should perform on a regular basis and then offer them the training and guidance they need to succeed. Assign tasks to specific team members and make it clear who’s responsible for what. Make sure team members write down protocols step-by-step, then follow-up to confirm they perform assigned tasks properly.
Stressor 2: There’s no accountability. The doctor complained that while he could somewhat keep an eye on his clinical team, he had no real idea what his business team did all day.
Recommendation: Make sure team members know exactly which tasks they’re responsible for through detailed job descriptions. That way you won’t feel the need to check up on them; you can be confident they’re getting the job done. Let team members know they can delegate tasks as they see fit, but it’s ultimately their responsibility to make sure their assigned tasks are completed – and completed correctly.
It’s also a good idea to develop a system to ensure every team member understands the importance of completing tasks quickly. When assigning a task, tell the team member if it needs to be done by the end of the day or the end of the week. This ensures team members know how urgent the request is and where it should fall on their list of priorities.
Stressor 3: This doctor never gets confirmation that a task has been completed. For example, he recently asked someone to follow-up with a patient about a billing question. He has no idea if that call was made, and not knowing continues to bother him until he finally asks.
Recommendation: There are several ways to address this, including:
• Have everyone make notes in the same place on the computer, whether it’s in contacts or clinical notes. That way you can look to see if the task was completed in the given timeframe. If it wasn’t, you can go directly to that person and ask for an update.
• Train team members to place a sticky note on your desk in a specific spot. The note should contain all the information you asked for and should confirm when the task was completed and the outcome.
• Ask team members to send you an email with the same information.
• Ask team members to give you updates during morning or monthly meetings.
• Train team members to place a note in the physical patient record.
Stressor 4: There’s no creativity. No one seems to care about finding different, more effective ways to market the practice, attract new patients or improve case acceptance. Everyone except the dentist seems fine with the status quo, so nothing ever improves.
Recommendation: Empower team members to think outside the box, which also means listening to what they have to say when they come to you with ideas. Create an environment where employees feel safe giving their opinion. Every time an employee shares an idea or concern, offer feedback and keep the conversation positive, even if you don’t agree with the employee. This makes team members much more likely to communicate and come up with creative ways to move the practice forward.
If you’re stressed out and feeling like you take on way too many tasks, especially if they’re tasks team members should be handling, then following this advice should help you relieve some of that burden. You’ll have a more efficient team that understands their role, giving you more time to focus on delivering top-notch patient care while also creating a more productive practice.
If you’re interested in reducing stress, call McKenzie Management today, 877-777-6151 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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