Article Date: 7/1/2011

Can a Staff Take Over an Office?
fix this practice

Can a Staff Take Over an Office?

Yes, unless you set boundaries, and establish yourself as a leader.

Richard S. Kattouf, O.D., D.O.S.

Q Is it possible for a doctor's staff to take control of the office? After practicing for more than 20 years, I may be guilty of enabling my employees to run me and the practice.

Dr. J.K. Geist via e-mail

A: You used a powerful word—enable. Many of us have witnessed parents who enable children to dictate the mood of the entire family. The parents have not provided the proper structure and organization for the developing child. They have not established consequences for negative behavior. The result is a child who acts out of boundaries of acceptable behavior. Children are not born knowing boundaries. They must be taught and shown by example.

Lead, do not enable

Employees require teaching and strong leadership. When staffers observe an owner who lacks awareness, does not set standard operating procedures and has poor communication skills, they are like foxes on a hunt. This type of behavior on the part of the owner is what leads to the enabling.

Keep in mind that if you have control from the onset of your career, you will most likely maintain control. If you lose it and the staff goes “out of bounds,” the situation becomes difficult to correct without significant employee replacement.

Dr. L.T. Golen was a prime example of an enabler. L.T. was nice to a fault. He overpaid his staff, allowed them to have excessive days off with pay, and they embezzled product and significant time.

Recently, Dr. Golen invested more than $100,000 in an optical lens molding system. This technology would allow L.T.'s office to render superior service to patients and lower the cost of goods by 10%. Let us analyze what L.T. tried to do: improve service, lower cost of goods, increase net income and develop a commission system for his employees. Certainly the goal was good for the patient, the owner and the staff. A no brainer. Right?

This group of employees refused to use the technology because in their minds they wanted to dispense only what they defined as “premium products.” Wow. The doctor owns the practice, has taken a significant financial risk, is investing in new technology to improve the operation, and the staff refuses to recommend these molded multi-focal lenses?

L.T. enabled this negative behavior through a period of many years. It reached a point at which the employee “leaders” felt they were in control.

When I consulted on-site and confronted the three leaders, they were given an ultimatum: Either get with the new management program or be dismissed.

These “leaders” thought that once I left they could overpower L.T. once again. Due to the support system we put in place, L.T. and I terminated these three employees. Their replacements were given the “structure,” organization and consequences to negative behavior from the start.


ILLUSTRATION BY MARK COLLINS

The ultimate leader

Understand that you are the expert in vision care. Certainly, you can request employees input on a wide range of topics, but you are the ultimate leader. If you allow employees to control purchasing decisions, techniques and management concepts, you are enabling negative behavior. OM


DR. KATTOUF IS PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR INFORMATION, CALL (800) 745-EYES, OR E-MAIL HIM AT ADVANCEDEYECARE@HOTMAIL.COM. THE INFORMATION IN THIS COLUMN IS BASED ON ACTUAL CONSULTING FILES.

Optometric Management, Issue: July 2011