Employee discipline is one of the hardest, but necessary, components of practice ownership and employing staff.
It’s human nature to avoid confrontation. As a leader, it’s important to set the ground rules from the first day of employment. Creating an atmosphere of collaboration, mutual respect and trust early on can reap long-term rewards for the employee, you as the employer and ultimately the practice. Employees who have a sense of ownership and investment will often perform in a manner that enables the practice to flourish and grow. Happiness is infectious! This atmosphere will resonate with your patients and lead to potential referrals.
It is important and recommended that you have an established office policies. Staying consistent with all employees in establishing clear, reasonable policies makes the difference between a smooth-running practice and one that’s plagued with employee-related angst. If you don’t already have a written policies, or they're out-of-date, you can develop one at no charge using our employee manual resources.
Adherence to the policies in place should be understood by all employees and enforced equally by the employer. Each employee should be familiar with office policies, and the consequences that may occur if they violate a policy — keeping in mind that you should be flexible in the enforcement of certain rules if extenuating circumstances should arise. Any changes in office policies should be posted for all employees to see in advance of the policy effective date. Provide employees an opportunity to ask questions and have each sign an acknowledgement of the new policy and place in the employee personnel file.
If a problem develops with an employee, you should be prepared to have an open discussion bringing the behavior to his or her attention; hopefully, they will work with you to solve it. By showing confidence and trust by involving the employee in finding a solution, not only will you likely get your desired result, you will have given the employee an opportunity to grow professionally and personally.
Consider the following tips for difficult performance conversations:
- Remain neutral. The moment you smile, even though you’re trying to put the employee at ease, you have reduced your effectiveness. Smiling indicates approval, and you are talking about performance that does not deserve approval.
- Don’t "save" complaints. Don't save up all your complaints and problems until the bag is full and then dump the contents on the worker. Reprimand as soon as possible for each problem, one at a time.
- Be specific. Tell the employee what she did wrong—what was observed and how that differs from what was expected. Give her a chance to clarify the issue, but don’t accept excuses.
- Explain how you feel. Don’t pretend you’re not angry or surprised or disappointed when you obviously are. But don’t, of course, let your feelings become more important than the actual facts at hand.
- Put the reprimand in perspective. You’re reprimanding the employee for a specific action in a specific situation, not for being a bad worker in general. It’s because you value his work and talents that you’re investing the energy in trying to correct his performance.
- Don’t repeat the reprimand. Once it’s done, it’s done. Now it’s time for everyone to go back to work.