Article Date: 9/1/2013

Business Strategies
business strategies

“Managing” By Not Managing

Problem employees rarely go away on their own. They need your attention.

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GARY GERBER, O.D.

The number one challenge consultants find in practices isn’t insurance companies, Internet dispensing, Obamacare, HIPAA, IT issues, big box competition, too many schools or too many O.D.’s What’s left? If you think, “It’s my staff,” you’re close. The bane isn’t how you manage your staff. It’s if you manage your staff.

As a group, O.D.’s are non-confrontational to a fault. We’ve heard: “I have this optician who is really good, but I caught him stealing. What should I do?” Or, “We just hired a rock star technician but she always seems to miss a lot of work.” And our all-time favorite, “We have an office manager who no other staff member likes or respects and she’s brusque with patients too. But, she knows how to do everything in the office so I can’t fire her.”

The underlying problem in all three scenarios is exactly the same. As the owner, the doctor has abdicated his authority and responsibility. It isn’t the staff members’ behaviors or attitudes, per se. It’s a problem of the owner not choosing to do anything about them. Let’s look at each case individually.

Theft: just the facts

I hate to be jaded, but the facts are that nearly all employees will steal. It’s not a question of “will they steal” but “how much,” whether it’s a pen, three minutes on the time clock, a trial contact lens or $50,000. You have to determine your tolerance for theft.

In the case of the stealing optician, “minor offenses” like three minutes on the time clock may have escalated to bigger things. If so, the only question you must answer is, “The optician has stolen X from me but I’m not firing them. What will it take so I will fire them?” If X is a nose pad, where will you draw the line?

Sadly, even in documented cases of theft of inventory or cash, we know of doctors who still haven’t fired these employees! “Gary, they are really good opticians and that’s a hard position to fill around here.”

The absent rock star

For the rock star tech who comes in late or doesn’t show up, she’s really not a rock star (unless you put her in the class of those who show up late, or entirely miss concerts). If she has chronic attendance problems, move on. You’re not missing much.

Deposing the dictator

The most common non-managed staff people we encounter are dictatorial, non-bending office “managers.” Often, when we hear territorial responses like, “Only I can do this,” or, “We can’t do it like that here,” we immediately think of theft or embezzlement. The reality is, nearly anyone can do most managerial tasks in most offices. If someone is overly protective and unwilling to discuss how things are done, that hyper-defensive posture should set off all sorts of sirens. Even if this person is not a thief, they are toxic to your office culture.

Lifting a dark cloud

No one likes firing an employee. However, in the cases of these three stereotypical employees, we’ve never found any client resentment post-firing. To the contrary, a dark cloud usually leaves the office, and the remainder of the team is much happier and productive.

While there are often hiccups and speed bumps until that person is replaced, you’ll be better off for managing your staff instead of hoping the problems goes away on their own. OM

DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN MAKING OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM, OR CALL DR. GERBER AT (800) 867-9303.



Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: September 2013, page(s): 89