Article Date: 8/1/2004

fix this practice
Communication Breakdown
When you don't express your feelings, you're saying that anything goes.
By Richard S. Kattouf, O.D.

Q I'm a percentage owner of a practice, but I've given up offering my opinion in matters of administration and management because the majority owner puts down anyone else's opinions and suggestions. The staff are aware that I'm powerless and avoid coming to me with any situation. Is there any solution to this situation?

Dr. I. R. Lorrasso, via e-mail

A: Ask yourself if you have enabled the owner to ignore your ideas. In my consulting business, I've observed many O.D.s and M.D.s who enable all forms of poor behavioral patterns (e.g., tardiness, using the office phone for personal use, using cell phones during work hours and embezzling product and money).

Normally with this type of scenario, the minority owner avoids communicating his feelings to the senior doctor. Unfortunately, your lack of communication is part of the enabling process.

Identifying the controller

The "control freak" behavior usually belongs to a person who always gets his way. However, when you confront this type of individual, you usually gain his respect. But enable him to feel power and he'll become more controlling.

The senior in this case views himself as indispensable. In his mind, he began the organization and it would crumble without his leadership. However, when nonpartial outside consultants study these dynamics, they find that the organization would continue without a glitch if the senior was suddenly not present.


Dealing with dissension

A year ago, four doctors hired me regarding organizational issues (low net and lack of employee control at their three locations). I immediately noticed tension between the owners. The majority (senior) owner controlled 51% of the stock while the other three doctors shared the 49% equally. The senior didn't seek or accept advice from his three minority partners. He also never abandoned delegation of administrative or management duties. Each minority owner made attempts at managing, but the senior doctor always shot them down.

Digging out the details

I met with each minority owner separately and then with all three as a group. In their minds, the senior was too strong and unapproachable and they eventually agreed that they were all guilty of enabling him to disrespect their suggestions and opinions.

The senior worked in only one of the three offices while the minority owners alternated between the three. While analyzing the production of all of the offices, I found that the senior's location had the lowest income. In our second meeting, I brought this fact to the attention of all four owners. The senior accepted no blame for any of the ownership problems.

The solution

I delegated management and administrative responsibilities to each minority owner. We then met with the staff and announced the new assignments. I insisted that the senior address the minority partners and explain that he had been wrong. Doing so made the staff and doctors are all more productive, efficient, profitable and happy.

If you're in a similar situation, consider breaking the communication barrier. You may not experience as strong a response as that above, but you'll surely benefit.

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: August 2004