Complaint Dept. is Closed
do you do when employee complaints threaten your workplace?
THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR Jim Thomas
posed a solution for complaining over 2,000 years ago when he said, "It's better
to light a small candle than curse the darkness." Comparing the number of candles
to curses we observe on any given day, I think it's safe to say that few heed his
Left unmanaged, complaints can sabotage a practice.
Yet they can also represent the first step in creating a productive, team-based
Yes, we have no complaints
My experiences in office politics lead me
to believe that an effective way to reduce complaints is to ban them. Set ground-rules
to encourage constructive approaches to issues approaches that demonstrate
a positive attitude as well as respect for other team members.
It's likely that staff will require
on-the-job training to fully understand the rules. For example, an office manager
might remark, "When it comes to checking in patients, Fran is the worst I've ever
seen." The statement hits the trifecta: It doesn't offer a solution, a positive
outlook or respect.
In private, ask the office manager
if she/he can explain the cause of the problem and recommend a solution.
You can also ask if the office manager
if she has addressed the problem with Fran. Based on the responses, you can provide
direction: "Discuss this with Fran. Ask her for suggestions on how we can make her
more proficient at checking in patients."
If at first you don't succeed...
You'll need to give additional instructions
if the responses miss the mark, as in the case of, "Fran just doesn't care," or
if Fran were to "counter-complain" about her "overbearing office manager." (You
can ask that both employees return with a solution together, which would encourage
teamwork and reduce the number of behind-the-back comments.)
A move in the right direction is a
response such as, "I spoke to Fran and we'd like to propose solutions for improving
performance at the front desk." Acknowledge that staff presented a sensitive issue
in a positive, productive manner. Let them know your confident that they will handle
future issues with the same level of professionalism. Also notice that throughout
the scenario, the optometrist never reprimanded or complained about the complainer.
This approach usually requires an enthusiastic,
focused effort at first. And admittedly, it's not the only solution that I've found
effective. My father got great mileage out of "Stop the whining, now!" If there's
a common variable, it's that each system requires a strong role model.
Optometric Management, Issue: June 2006