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Dealing with a Problem Employee

I received an email from a doctor having a staff problem. I replied to her and thought this might benefit some other people out there. Please see our discussion below:

Hi Ken,

As an employer, how can you tell your employee to stop his/her: gum smacking, not to laugh at the end of each sentence, to stop blowing her nose as everybody can hear it, to stop asserting herself on someone else’s conversation?

I have such a hard time saying something to my assistant about these issues. Everybody in the office is being affected, and I am not happy at all with her. I try my best to tell her what I would prefer from her as an employee, but it hasn’t worked.

Please help me.

Dr. S


My Reply

Dear Dr. S,

There are several things that can help you in this current situation and help prevent this from happening in the future. This is a bit of a lengthy reply due to the nature of your problem. Please take the time to read through this as I believe it will give you some insight into the problem and how to handle it.

The first, and probably the most important thing is to make sure that you have very detailed job descriptions and office policies in place. In your office policy manual, there needs to be written policies about acceptable and unacceptable employee behavior. When new employees are hired, they are given a copy of this policy manual, and they are to read and sign off on them. This lets them know what is and isn’t permitted in your office. They agree to this, and you now have legal recourse for disciplinary action and/or termination for non-compliance.

As new policies are written, a copy is handed out to all employees for them to read and sign off on. These signed agreements are added to their personnel files. These can then be referenced in regular employee evaluations, disciplinary actions, and if needed, termination situations.

If, however, you only deliver your requests verbally, you leave these requests open to interpretation. It is imperative to have everything in writing so that there is no room for interpretation.

The other underlying issue that I see here is hiring the right people to begin with. There are three steps here:

  • Attracting the right kind of employees,
  • Determining who to hire, and
  • Training them to do their job properly after you’ve hired them.

When you are looking to fill a new position, the wording of your ad/listing is key. Where you are advertising is also a big factor. Utilizing employment agencies that pre-screen applicants to your qualifications can greatly increase the quality of candidates that you see, weeding out the lower quality people ahead of time.Determining who to hire is a shot in the dark for most doctors. They read a resume, conduct an interview and take a shot. No one writes on their resume that they are chronically late, don’t take directions well and can’t get along with others. What you see on a resume is only what the applicant wants you to see. Similarly, all you hear in an interview is what they want you to hear. They say the right things or at the very least what they think that you want to hear in order to get the job.

After they are hired they stay on their best behavior until they get comfortable; then, they become themselves. Only then do you know who you’ve really hired.

You need a more objective way to screen and hire people so that you have a better idea of who they are, what kind of personality they have, their responsibility level, their aptitude and their work ethic. Corporations have been hiring people this way for years. Small businesses suffer through much higher turnover rates due to their lack of successful hiring techniques.

Personality tests, IQ tests, Aptitude tests are all implemented to get a feel for who a person really is and how they will fit into your practice and interact with the staff, more importantly your patients.

Once you have hired the right person, you need to make sure that you train them properly. This is where detailed and up-to-date job descriptions and office policies come into play. It is vital that you equip your new employee with the proper tools to do their job rather than throw them to the wolves and hoping they pick up the proper way to do things as they go.

Here is a policy regarding employee performance evaluations. Take a look at this as I think it will give you an idea of the kinds of policies that should have a place in your office policy manual.

To receive “an example policy regarding employee performance evaluations”, please fill out the form to the right. This example policy can help you better understand the exact types of policies that are most beneficial to have in your company’s office policy manual. (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Fill out the form to receive a policy regarding employee performance evaluations (highly recommended).








Where is Your Net Profit?

You’ve worked hard all week; the office atmosphere is rife with discipline and brisk efficiency. The staff have been getting along with one another and you are proud of the team spirit they’ve both individually and collectively demonstrated. In fact, your staff has almost read your mind and anticipated your every need. All of the patients have arrived on time for their appointments, and the majority of them have even heeded your advice and accepted your treatment plans!

Now it’s Friday afternoon; the staff has received their paychecks, which reflect production bonuses that you’ve doled out in appreciation of their contribution to the overall increase in production. But then you look at your bank balance and you’re surprised and sorely disappointed at the lack of funds left over for you. What happened?

Where is your net profit? Did you work hard all week just to earn less money? The bank balance should be going up, not down!

You wonder if it’s worth all the effort. All of that increased production might just have landed you into a “higher office-overhead/higher tax-bracket” situation. It’s that frustrating income vortex — the place where, despite producing and collecting more, you take home the same amount or less. And following a few of these “successful” weeks, you shake your head and realize that if you endure much more of that kind of success, you’ll go broke! So, what should you do?

Let’s start by taking a look at the myriad of possibilities of what might have occurred that resulted in your not having any profit for yourself:

Management Issues:

  • Could you consolidate loans for equipment and/or your practice into just one loan, in order to reduce your monthly loan payment and possibly the interest amount?
  • Can you reduce the amount of inventory the practice maintains?
  • Are you collecting your Accounts Receivables with minimal aging? Do you collect at least 97% of the amounts billed?
  • Do you have any sort of monitoring system that helps you to know at a glance, statistically, who is productive and who isn’t?
  • Do you have written office policies that are known and enforced?
  • Does each position in the office have a fully delineated job description?

To learn the 8 staff-related issues that can plague you and adversely affect your net income read the final half of this article by filling out this form (Highly Recommended).

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Fill out the form to read the rest of this article (Highly Recommended).











How to Properly Correct Employees

It would be wonderful if employees never make mistakes and always do a perfect job. But we’re all human; on-the-job errors are part and parcel of working in a practice. That begs this question: What do you do when a staff member messes up and how do you correct him?

Here are some suggestions on how to properly correct your staff:

As part of this overall process, you must have written job descriptions and office policies that clearly delineate which tasks a person is responsible for on his/her job and the overall working guidelines for the office, respectively. The reason that proper, written job descriptions and office policies are so important is that you should use them as part of your correction procedure. Unfortunately, very few practice owners have them in place.

For starters, if you need to correct a staff member, make sure you review any specific disciplinary policies that you have issued, so that your actions are consistent with them. For example, if your policy states that proven theft results in an automatic discharge, you would not utilize a gradient approach to termination by merely reprimanding someone guilty of stealing.

Typically, the first step in correcting a staff member is to direct his attention to the specific item he violated, as delineated in his job description or in your written policies, indicating the appropriate action that he failed to take or the inappropriate action that he did take. Direct the staff member to reread the policy and/or job description. Ensure that he understands it and clear up any confusions or misunderstandings. This corrective action is usually sufficient to handle the first offense.

If the staff member commits a second offense involving the same issue, the office manager or practice owner should review the situation with the staff member and have him sign a copy of the policy or procedure that covers what was violated, as an attestation that he understands it and agrees to abide by it. We then recommend that you put a copy of the signed document in the staff member’s personnel file and give him a copy to put in his staff binder. One may consider that this constitutes a warning.

To learn how to apply these policies in specific situations, such as;  How many warnings should be issued? What if the employee is an excellent producer? Read the final half of this article by filling out this form.

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Fill out the form to read the rest of this article (Highly Recommended).