Article Date: 12/1/2011

When Colleagues Lose Control
fix this practice

When Colleagues Lose Control

How do you manage when a partner fails to set boundaries?

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

Q: Ten years ago I went into a 50-50 partnership with another optometrists. Our initial agreement assigned all personnel and patient issues to my partner and all finances to me. The issue is that my partner routinely “gives in” to staff and allows confrontation between employees to continue well beyond a reasonable time frame. Control, morale, efficiency and productivity are at an all time low. Patients take advantage of our practice. What should I do?

Dr. J. Weedin, via e-mail

A: Educate your partner (we'll call him Ted) that you feel he has failed to set boundaries of behavior for staff, discuss the problems outlined above, their consequences and suggest solutions, which I've outlined here:

► Employees asking for “special” schedules. Many employees come to the practice owner with “special” scheduling requests, such as, “Is there any way I could be home by 3:30 pm? This is when my children come home from school.”

If you're a parent, you can empathize with this request. Yet, by conceding to one staffer's personal needs, the practice owner risks exhibiting favoritism or opens the flood gates for several additional special requests not just from this staffer, but from other staffers who would like a schedule that accommodates their individual lifestyle needs.

Solution: Make it clear to employees that schedules are based on obligation to the patient first.

► Employees engaging in behavior that compromises productivity. We are in a technological bubble. Therefore, many employees feel that they should be able to use cell phones, text messaging, Twitter or Facebook.

Solution: Employees must understand that, on the job, cell phone use is unproductive and therefore, embezzles practice time. Set a “no tolerance” policy that states employees cannot bring cell phones into the office.

In addition, obtain “blocking” software for the practice's computers to prevent employees from using the computers for personal use. Based on my consulting experiences, I must warn you that this productivity problem runs rampant. Do not be naïve in thinking that employees will simply adhere to the policy. If they have the ability to use the computer for personal use, they likely will.

► Employee time off with little-to-no notice and tardiness.

Solution: Use a time-off “request” form for staffers that must be turned in three weeks prior to the requested vacation day(s), and let staffers know that you will review requests and inform them within a few days whether the requests have been granted.

In terms of the tardiness, add to your office manual that employees must clock in five minutes prior to their scheduled starting time. This assures employees will be at their work stations on time.

The benefits of boundaries

In general, staff does not police itself. It is the owner's obligation to have a steady pulse on the practice. If your boundaries are loose I guarantee your staff will not pay attention to detail. Such behavior compromises efficiency, productivity and profitability.

Using the steps outlined in this article, you can be nice yet organized. You can set specific boundaries without being “mean.” 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: December 2011