Article Date: 7/1/2004

fix this practice
Breaking Bad Employee Habits
Try these tips to regain control of staff.
By Richard S. Kattouf, O.D.

Q In the area where I practice, I find that it's difficult to find and keep good employees. Because of this problem, I've been lax with my staff to the point at which I feel they're holding me hostage. They ignore rules and do whatever pleases them personally. Help!

Dr. N. L. Salem, Via e-mail

A: Staffing, staff training, retention of staff and proper staff control encompasses the largest headache in the ophthalmic industry. Many optometric and ophthalmic practices have trouble with staff controlling the doctor. The reasons for this horrible situation is difficulty in finding adequate replacements, the pain and agony of training new employees and overall lack of awareness of the doctor. The following is a list of common problem staff behaviors:

Personal use of office phones. If six employees embezzle 10 minutes each day on personal telephone calls, then this equals one hour each day or six hours each week (and an average loss of income of $66 each week or $330 each month).

A discussion of salaries, perks, bonuses, commissions and raises. Such talk creates maximum dissension and stress among any employee work family.

Use of cell phones at work. They might be using their own phones, but if they're on company time, employees are still embezzling time. Aside from that, it's rude for patients to observe and creates a noncaring impression.

Huddling to talk and discuss non-office related topics. Again, this creates a rude impression on patients.

Consistent tardiness. Everyone deals with weather, traffic and distance. Excuses abound but are invalid when frequently repeated.

Not giving full attention and focus to patients. For example, employees play games and hesitate before performing tasks so that they can loaf while a caring employee becomes overloaded with work.

Personal use of the Internet. This accounts for a huge embezzlement of time. Employees exhibiting this behavior are ignoring their workload and are losing focus on patients.

Lack of respect for owner/ doctor. Ignoring doctor requests, talking in a disrespectful manner, constantly demanding a work schedule that ignores the good of the office and other employees are all forms of disruptive behavior.

Lack of attention in ledgering patient charges and payments. Huge errors in submitting insurance claims can lead to enormous loss of income.

Ignoring attention to details. Such things as manners, using improper language, personal hygiene and poor appearance.

Unwillingness to learn and teach. Many employees learn one segment of the office and resist cross training, which is often necessary.

Lead by example

Many doctors have hired my company to deal with situations similar to those mentioned above. All of these staff behaviors are "out of bounds." My job is to define the problems and install solutions such as the following:

Structure, organization and enforcing consequences for poor behavior are key elements to molding a staff of your dreams. Try it and see for yourself.

Dr. Kattouf is president and founder of two management and consulting companies.  For information, call (800) 745-EYES or e-mail him at The information in this column is based on actual consulting files.


Optometric Management, Issue: July 2004