One thing that most doctors truly dislike is holding employees accountable. It can feel confrontational, and just generally uncomfortable. If everyone is doing what they are supposed to do, this does not come up, but that is rarely the case 100% of the time. There are several things you can do in your clinic to make this less frequent and les unpleasant.
- Make it clear to all staff members that all staff members are expected to always act like adults. What’s the business definition of an adult? Someone who knows what they are supposed to do, and does it, on or before it’s due, without being asked, told or forced. If this is not the case, things degenerate into micromanagement, re-doing work, or inspecting work regularly. All of these things damage working relationships over time.
- Provide clear instructions to the staff about the rules of being an employee. This gets translated into an employee handbook, which is reviewed with the employee and is signed. This applies to all new employees. If you have an existing employee, but are updating your handbook, that’s when you gather the signature.
- Provide clear instructions to the staff about how to do their job. This takes the form of a procedural manual. For admin jobs, the best format to use is a series of screen shots with associated text. This is the best way to teach or re-teach about how to navigate your software. Scripted routine patient communications can be in the form of text or short video clips.
- Provide all employees with the context of the what and how factors with the why factors. This can take the form of a written mission/vision/values statement about your clinic. Every single procedure should have a tie-in to this umbrella concept. Simon Sinek is one of my favorite writers on this critical topic. Learn more.
- Be sure you schedule a few company wide activities or events during the year to support morale and introduce a little fun into the proceedings.
When you are having an accountability conversation with your employee, the presence of these structural elements will de-personalize the correction. Makes it easier to go to the rules violation model rather than the personal attack model. Having handbooks and procedural manuals means that everyone is being treated the same way, and no one has a separate set of rules. Most employees really value this concept and become resentful if you allow an employee to break the rules without any sort of attempt at correction.
Even in a tight labor market, you cannot allow disruptive or unproductive employees to remain with you unchanged. If the transgressions are voluntary (such as tardiness), a performance improvement plan is the next step. Clear instructions about expectations in writing, and signed by the employee and placed in the employee file are next steps.
If we do not see improvement, then employment separation is the next step. Many clients hesitate to do this and view it as a punishment. Another way to look at this is that a grade C employee is not happy in the job either, and their behavior is harming your reputations and profitability. The term of art is “returning the employee to the work force.”
Remember that low unemployment numbers means that there are relatively few people who want a job and don’t have one. It does not mean that there are zero eligible people, and it also does not mean that everyone with a job is happy about it. They may want a shorter commute, better working conditions, or greater meaning and purpose in their working life. Think about it in the sense that you now have the chance to upgrade your team!