Signs It’s Time to Fire an Employee, and Steps to Take Before You Do
It’s bound to happen at least once in your career. You hire someone you believe is a perfect fit for the job. The new employee seems excited to join the team and contribute to practice success, and you’re confident he or she will do just that. But as the weeks and months go by, it becomes clear that instead of helping move the practice forward, this team member is doing nothing but holding it back – forcing you to start thinking about firing this once promising employee.
Making the decision to fire a problem team member is never easy. In fact, most dentists put it off as long as they can, convincing themselves a little training and extra guidance is all they need to get on the right track. While this might work in some instances, it probably isn’t going to help team members who have poor attitudes or who just don’t have the skills necessary to perform the tasks the job requires.
The longer you keep underperforming employees on the payroll, the more damage they will do to your practice. Team morale will suffer and so will your bottom line. Patients will notice something isn’t right, which could prompt them to find a new dental home.
As much as you don’t want to fire a team member, sometimes it’s necessary. Here are common signs it’s time to dismiss an employee:
-They have no interest in following established office policies
Does any of the above describe one of your team members? If so, unfortunately, it probably means it’s time for you to take action before any more damage is done to your practice. But before you fire an employee, there are steps you need to take through a clearly established progressive discipline system. Through this system, the penalties become stronger as an employee’s misconduct or poor performance continues. You might start by giving an employee a verbal reprimand, then move on to a written reprimand before suspending and eventually dismissing the employee.
It’s important to document everything throughout the process, which should play out over a 60-90 day period. This gives the team member a chance to make the necessary changes and start contributing to the practice. Let employees know (both verbally and in writing) the specific issues you have with their performance and the changes that need to be made. Develop an agreement that spells out these changes, then make sure both of you sign it before you place it in the employee’s file.
If the team member makes a real effort to improve and starts meeting your expectations, great. Problem solved. Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen. Instead, the lackluster performance and poor attitude will likely continue, leaving you no choice but to terminate employment.
Firing an employee is always difficult, but if you’re prepared for it, the process will be a lot less painful. Just remember to document everything, including the team member’s progress and any feedback you gave during the disciplinary process. Documentation shows you didn’t decide to fire an employee on a whim; he or she chose not to correct the problems identified even when given the opportunity. By terminating employment, you simply took the next and final step in the progressive discipline plan.
Underperforming team members do nothing but bring your practice down, especially if they also display a negative attitude at work each day. The longer you let these employees remain part of the team, the more harm they’ll do. Know when it’s time to let go of a team member and the steps you need to take to complete the process. I know this is difficult, so feel free to contact me if you need more guidance. I can also help you develop a system to find the best team members possible when you’re ready to hire, so you won’t have to go through the firing process again.
Next week: Follow these 10 steps when it’s time to fire a team member
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Get to Know Your Patients Before You Treat Them
It is possible to change someone’s behavior by changing your behavior towards them.
Many years ago, I took a position in a dental practice as a Business Coordinator. Within a brief time, I found I did not like the dentist. I thought he was braggadocios and somewhat of a nosey micromanager. I had judged him without really knowing him, and the more I listened to him the more I cringed.
One day he brought in a book and handed it to me. It was How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, www.dalecarnegie.com. He asked me to read it and give a report about it at the staff meeting. I did as he asked and was prepared to present my report. Unfortunately, I never heard a word from him about it afterward, even though I told him I read it.
“Your work is impeccable, you are always on time and prepared. The patients and staff like you a lot. You know a lot about insurance and have great verbal skills. However, I have decided to let you go from your position here. I want a happy-go-lucky, cheery sort of person at the front desk and that just isn’t you. I really like you, so I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but you just aren’t a good fit for my practice.”
I asked myself, “Does he know how I feel toward him? I never told anyone what I think of him, but somehow he knows I don’t like him.” Thinking back, I believe if I had taken the time to get to know him and build a rapport and respect, perhaps there would have been a better outcome.
Much of the feeling of “happiness” in life is based not on wealth or status, but on how well we read, understand and deal with those around us – friends, family, co-workers, patients, bosses and so on. A truly successful career depends upon developing the people skills needed to make a positive impact on those who are influenced by our presence in their lives.
When I later became a Treatment Coordinator, I knew that a large part of my position was to influence patients to buy the treatment plans presented to them. Many patients posed a challenge because they would tell me they needed treatment, but then not buy the treatment for many reasons or “excuses.” I thought about it and wondered if I was sending messages that weren’t persuading them to make the right decision. If the patient agreed to the treatment, it would correct a health problem for them and I would receive credit for making the appointment. We both would win. Without coercion or manipulation, how could I get them to see things in the way that would benefit us both?
I knew they needed the treatment, but did they want the treatment? Two words that sound alike, but are very different. Was I not connecting on a level that communicated “want” in the patient? How could I know what they wanted if I didn’t know anything about them?
I realized it would be of value to connect and build rapport with my patients, so I could see what they truly wanted. I stopped being serious about proving a need for care and focused on developing a “want” for care. It was my goal to believe in and communicate the health benefits of quality dental care in a compassionate yet candid fashion, and have it come across in my conversations with patients. It was easy to believe in the value of dentistry because I lived it and made sure my children always had diligent care. It was something I wanted for them.
Some of the areas I focused on:
Before you can get a patient to agree on treatment, services and/or a product, you must know what the patient wants and expects from the treatment. Having some insight into their life and what they value is key. The only way to accomplish that is to get to know your patients and build a common ground of respect and support before you treat them.
Want to learn more about the business of dentistry from the perspective of years of experience and expertise? Call McKenzie Management today and sign up for one of our professional one-on-one business courses in Front Office, Office Manager, CEO or Treatment Acceptance.
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