Article Date: 8/1/2002

fix this practice
Out of Bounds
Learn some key points in dealing with a staffer who's out of line.
Richard S. Kattouf, O.D.

Q Negative staffing issues seem more prominent now than ever. How do we properly terminate employees?

Dr. J. T. Kravitz, Via e-mail

A: There's definitely been an increase in poor staff behavior in the last 5 years -- and society mixed with a doctor's lack of establishing proper behavioral guidelines are to blame. So what can you do about it? I'll explain.

Keeping it all in check

It's important to keep a constant "state patrolman concept" and checks-and-balance system in place in your office, so you need to set behavioral patterns for your staff. If you lay out the rules but don't enforce them, you're enabling poor behavior.

Be aware of your staff's language; behavior; tardiness; absenteeism; embezzlement of time, money or product; income producing ability; appearance and whether they create or reduce stress. Meet with them daily to compliment positive behavior and to critique negative behavior.

If an employee can't or won't change, then you or the manager should have a one-on-one discussion with him. Follow up by documenting the discussion and have the employee sign the record. If the staffer still doesn't improve his behavior within 1 week, put him on a 1-week probationary period. Make sure you document all of your steps and have the employee sign the documentation. If he still doesn't change, then terminate him.

A prime example

Dr. Simon called me because he had a highly skilled employee (Patricia) who was chronically late and excessively absent. She also took long lunch breaks and made and received personal calls from the office. Though the policy manual listed rules of conduct and most employees performed within the rules, Dr. Simon turned a blind eye to Patricia's behavior because of her skill level.

Surveying the scene

When Dr. Simon hired me to come to his office, poor morale, tremendous gossiping among staff, high stress levels and clicks of employees taking different sides confronted me. Plus, unit sale per patient was only $170, which is $80 under the national averages. In meeting with each staffer, it was unanimous that Patricia was a major problem. Dr. Simon's enabling her to break rules without consequences was destroying office teamwork, morale and income.

I documented Patricia's infractions and assigned a month to each. Dr. Simon approved the list and Patricia agreed to 70% of the list but refused to sign anything. I explained what changes she must make and placed her on probation. She chose not to comply, so Dr. Simon terminated her within 1 week.

Dr. Simon received Patricia's request for unemployment compensation and challenged her because she had broken the rules for more than 2 years. The unemployment service ruled in Patricia's favor. Had Dr. Simon documented each infraction and Patricia signed each, the agency would have ruled in his favor. The other problem was the length of time he enabled the behavior.

Do what you have to

O.D.s are typically lax in enforcing rules and in establishing built-in checks and balance systems. The results are expensive and unnecessary. After my visit to Dr. Simon's office, morale hit an all-time high and unit sale per patient rose to $310. In the end, I succeeded in teaching Dr. Simon how to treat all staffers consistently.

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: August 2002