PROACTIVE PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
“Employees Behaving Badly: Give us your best advice on how to deal with them!”
heard the horror stories; some are NOT urban legend!
frequent stories of “Employees Behaving Badly”, unfortunately,
involve social networking. How about learning that
egregious typically involve theft and embezzlement; most often an
employee is caught:
Taking half the money received from a vendor for re-cycled
precious metals (gold) and distributing the balance to the rest of the
team (in an obvious effort to secure naive accomplices)
“Employees Behaving Badly” begins with setting up an environment
with good personnel management systems that proactively defuses
improprieties before they happen. When they do happen, it’s important
to take action right away.
No matter how
many employees a person hires and fires over their career, it’s
inevitable events will occur where people do something wrong which will
without doubt result in conflict; it’s human nature. Managing poor
behavior with corrective action and discipline, and controlling conflict
in such a way that it creates an alliance rather than an obstacle, is
the result of well-orchestrated people management techniques.
Often times, the
education and experience of the worker and manager are different. For
instance, the new employee may have had to “pull themselves up by the
bootstraps” and has endured many obstacles in their personal and
professional lives. This may have given them invaluable experience in
the school of hard knocks and they most probably witnessed different
management styles from previous employers along the way. On the other
hand, a dentist acquiring their own practice and becoming a manager of
people for the first time may not have pursued any formal business or
personnel management training, and may not have learned the art of
diplomacy. This imbalanced connection with a new employee and new
manager may very well result in frustration, anxiety, and stress.
Building a great
relationship with people on both sides is key to good management, and is
ever more important in today’s changing times. A sluggish economy has
forced layoffs and other cutbacks in businesses of all sizes, resulting
in high stress, low morale, and concerns about job security. People have
fewer options when they consider walking away from a current position.
As a result, keeping a job has more to do with balancing technical and
During the late
1990’s, dentistry was experiencing wide spread growth and prosperity.
In comparison, it’s more difficult to sustain growth and profit in
When a small
business such as a dental office relies on outstanding people
performance, management and people skills go a long way towards
weathering the storm. One must avoid losing ones temper, not be
defensive, and control their emotions in general in order to be
constructive in dealing with workplace conflict and poor performance.
A manager must
be able to get as much from his or her employee as possible; but no
employee should be a doormat. Realistic expectations of job performance
and behavior must be clarified up front. For example, a dentist would be
wise to discuss with employees what will happen when a patient calls
with an immediate and urgent dental need towards the end of the day.
Instilling a “we will go the extra mile” principle clarifies the
issue before it becomes a problem. It is wise to make clear that
occasionally the office will stay open and a worker or two must stay
late to tend to patients in need. Agreed, it is not the normal operating
event, but it happens once in a while. Another example would be to make
it clear that cel phone usage, for personal calls, texting, internet
surfing, are not allowed during patient care hours; using a cel phone
while clocked out during lunch, at the beginning of the day, and at the
end of the day is permissible.
practice’s big picture in mind is vital, too. Dentists must share with
the team the vision they have of the office so that it becomes a
component of day-to-day activities. For instance, “We will always put
the patient’s comfort first” may be a valued business operating
principle that can be used as a foundation for establishing patient
will try to handle all they can and resolve those things that are
causing patient service problems on their own. Sometimes, the boss needs
to step in to provide constructive criticism, most likely because the
employee did not handle the situation properly and made a mistake.
Reprimanding an employee for unacceptable behavior is hard at first, but
the skills can be learned.
If an incident
occurs where an employee misbehaves, violates a company policy, or
otherwise causes a problem, follow these guidelines.
discharging an employee for bad behavior?
employers have good cause for discharging an employee, they do not keep
adequate records to substantiate good cause for the discharge. This is a
common problem throughout the dental community.
When one wishes
to discharge an employee, follow a similar course of discussion as with
the previously discussed reprimand. As soon as it is determined that the
employee was in the wrong and it is clear employment must be terminated,
dismiss the employee right away. Something simple, such as, “Based on
the circumstances we’ve discussed, you’re employment ends right
now.” Or, “You’re fired” works just fine.
It is very
important at this point to record everything that has happened,
including discussions, events, witnesses, dates, and times. Not only is
this good management, events are well-documented and easy to reproduce
just in case the employer must prepare to protest the payment of
Unemployment Insurance Benefits. Ultimately, it is the doctor’s
responsibility to provide supporting evidence to justify the discharge.
Here is a
reminder list of some of the most overlooked information needed in the
employee’s personnel file to justify dismissal from employment:
1. Keep records of all misconduct including dates, witnesses and specifically, what the employee did wrong.
Keep accurate records of all warnings both verbal and
written, including when warned, who did the warning, and why the
employee was warned.
Have an accurate statement of the final incident that
caused the employee to be discharged including when, why and any
witnesses to the event.
incomplete employee records are common reasons why employers do not
receive favorable rulings when protesting an Unemployment Insurance
claim made by a former employee.
Keep in mind
that Arizona is a right-to-work state, where employment is at-will.
Meaning, an employee may be dismissed, with or without notice, at the
discretion of the owner/employer for any reason or no reason, at any
time. Just the same, an employee may leave a place of business at any
time, for no reason, or any reason. In either case, common business
courtesy would suggest providing reasonable notice of termination or
resignation, although this is not required.
The exception is
when an employment contract states specifically in writing the terms of
employment and dismissal protocols. This overrides at-will employment.
Such a contract typically includes terms and conditions of how and when
both parties will provide notice of termination or resignation.
Help the team
understand what they can do better!
Here are some
down-to-earth approaches that employers can impart to employees that
will help resolve conflict and stress in the workplace:
Understand what the dentist wants: Develop a knack for
interpreting how he or she will respond to situations; pay attention to
feedback from him or her and address any concerns immediately.
Keep the doctor in the loop: Dentists don’t like
surprises and embarrassment. When things are going well, a short message
or conversation, would suffice. When a problem arises, don’t hide it;
explain and offer solutions.
Don’t waste his or her time: Write down what you need,
be ready to answer questions, and then leave if the reply isn’t
immediately forthcoming. Follow up with a reminder memo, if necessary at
a later date.
Be a rock: Show up early, meet deadlines and volunteer for
work when you have free time.
Don’t take criticism personally: Keep an open mind,
control your emotions and if appropriate, stand up for yourself,
politely, but firmly.
Don’t play games: Don’t criticize or gossip about a
co-worker, or anything for that matter, and mind your own business.
Know his or her quirks and accommodate them: Does the
dentist prefer notes, formal memos, or straight up communication
Pitch ideas: Make sure they’re reasoned,
solution-oriented and don’t add to the workload of others while
somehow skipping yours.
It may never
happen in your office, but Employees Behave Badly! If events take place,
act swiftly and come to a sensible and fair solution. Establish
reasonable personnel management systems that will ward off problems
before they arise. The practice will become less stressful, and
employees will serve you and your patients well.