Article Date: 6/1/2006

fix this practice
When Your Best is Also Your Worst
Sometimes changing a staffer's role can change problem behavior.
RICHARD S. KATTOUF, O.D., D.O.S.

Q: My "best" employee has a history of chronic absences, which I have enabled. The staff feels I am "playing favorites" and some are beginning to mimic the behavior. What can I do?"  - Dr. P. L. Hughes via e-mail

A: When we allow negative behavior patterns for one employee, others will follow. The individual in question will lose respect for you, as will the entire staff. When any employee is a "no show," she places stress on her department, the staff and doctor for the entire day. If employees cannot understand the problems they create, they do not belong in your organization.

Keep control

The best solution is prevention. Do not allow these patterns to get out of control. Insist that all employees adhere to standard operating procedures (S.O.P.) from the commencement of employment.

Dr. Sanger called my company with numerous management issues. One of the major problems was Annette, his best staff member. Annette had developed a habit of calling off work one day or more per week. She was the most detail oriented, self-starter, fast learner and overall best at patient encounters. Due to her stellar performance, Dr. Sanger enabled her to miss work. He admitted that he would have terminated any other staffer with such poor attendance. During my on-site consultations, I critiqued each employee for:

•   Income-producing ability
•   Self-starter
•   Appearance
•   Ophthalmic knowledge
•   Punctuality/attendance.

Put an end to bad behavior

Annette was a superior performer, except for the last qualification on the list above. Dr. Sanger had a manager, Judy, whose plate was over-flowing. She accepted too much responsibility and did not delegate enough. I told Dr. Sanger that we would appoint Annette a "staff supervisor." At first, he thought I was crazy. But I developed this position for two reasons:

1. Annette now had the obligation to act in a "leadership role." Her new duties came with a raise in salary and a probationary period of three months. She would receive half of the raise at the onset and the other half at the end of the probation. She could miss no days of work during this three-month trial. If she did miss a day, we would rescind her title and raise. I had her sign an agreement for her file.

2. Changing the behavior patterns might help retain a great employee. Annette had "learned" to "set-up" Dr. Sanger by saying, "I feel a migraine coming," or "My son may have to stay home tomorrow," the day before she called out. Annette was a manipulating employee.

The experiment worked

Annette actually had a passion for her new role. I told her what we expected from her as a leader and she responded positively. Over the next year, she missed work only twice.

I was not teaching Dr. Sanger to reward Annette's chronic absences. I evaluated her as a staff leader and coached her on how a leader must act as an example to the staff. It was the position of responsibility that turned her around. Judy also got some assistance by delegating many duties to Annette. Dr. Sanger's office has never run as smoothly as it does now.

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: June 2006