Optometric Management Tip # 555   -   Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Developing a Happy, Loyal Staff

A staff with a cheerful, friendly and caring attitude is extremely valuable. Those characteristics alone can build a practice. That positive attitude can mean the difference between a practice that grows quickly and one that is struggling. The demeanor of the staff can create loyal patients who return for future care, while they also refer their friends and relatives. Read on to see how you can have this valuable resource in your practice.

How can you control staff attitude?
It's a trick question. You can't really control staff attitude. You can develop it, foster it or encourage it, but you can't dictate it. Stop and think about what makes employees happy in any job. A high salary might do it, but studies show that pay is not the most important factor. More important would be things like: Organizational culture
The factors listed above describe features of the office culture. Some offices have scenarios like those every day, while others may never have them. Individual personalities have some effect, but a caring culture can be developed with a wide range of people. Caring and respect is contagious. If others show you respect, you will typically show it in return.

The culture in your office is created by the leaders. Typically, that would be the doctors and the office manager. Those individuals have leadership by default because of their job position, but if they don't exercise their authority and set a strong example, anyone can become a leader. It may be staff member who likes to be a trouble-maker. It may be an older employee who is burned out.

The doctor or manager can rebuild a negative culture by leading the staff to think differently. The way to achieve that is to actually care about your employees. Lead by example. Give positive feedback. Don't think you are better than they are. Do something nice for the staff as a group. Praise the staff at a staff meeting. Begin a new focus on excellent customer service. Lead that focus by not complaining about patients and by letting patients win, even when they are unreasonable.

Your competitive advantage in staffing
As you analyze your office policies and culture, ask yourself what is so good about working in your practice. See the day-to-day activities as an employee would see them. While we must have rules and policies and we must set limits, a good employer cares about the working conditions and how people feel. It is OK for staff to have some personal conversations on the job within limits and when appropriate. A staff member with a complaint may just need to vent to a manager who is sympathetic. A doctor who intends to instruct a staff member might do well to give some praise first, because employees are very sensitive to criticism.

Developing a staff with a great attitude takes some effort and some attention to detail, but the rewards are significant.
Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management