Article Date: 12/1/2006

fix this practice
Maximize Staff Respect

Giving too much control to staff can negatively impact your practice.

RICHARD S. KATTOUF, O.D., D.O.S.

Q: As a solo practitioner for 12 years, I feel my staff "controls" me. One of the issues is that I look extremely young, and most of my staff is older than I am. It is probably my fault, but the staff simply ignores any new concepts that they do not like. I need some help!

   Dr. G. T. Ritter Via E-Mail

A: Dr. Ritter, you are correct in taking responsibility for this dilemma. You certainly enabled this controlling behavior. The reasons that lead to this type of enabling are as follows:

• Assistants who understand the computer system at a much higher degree than you. Staffers feel "power" with this knowledge. Many develop the attitude that they are irreplaceable. Many doctors have new software installed and allow employees to attend all of the teaching and support without participating in training. In my consulting and management experience, I have witnessed many O.D. owners who cannot adequately oversee a department due to lack of computer knowledge. An O.D. owner cannot implement check and balance systems without the ability to keep up with all office technology.

• Doctors who simply do not demand respect. They allow employees to call them by their first name, socialize after hours and get too involved in their staff's personal lives. This type of behavior invites disrespect. You become just one of the fraternity or sorority members. Never allow assistants to refer to you by your first name. Be sure to "draw the line" between professional and social behavior. You should limit social activities to such things as holiday parties or dinners during conferences. Optometrists are an empathetic group but should limit discussion and involvement in the employees' personal and family life.

• Lack of check and balance techniques and adherence to standard operating procedures. This enables the staff to be "boundary-less." You have experienced children who are out of bounds. You can enable your staff to exhibit the same negative behavior.

• Your personal appearance in the office. Your body and your appearance are a "billboard." It is not necessary for every doctor to wear a suit, clinic jacket or a tie. It is critical that you assess the image you project. For example, if you have a very youthful appearance and wear casual slacks, deck shoes and an open collar shirt, you add insult to injury. If this is indeed your case, a clinic jacket and tie might enhance your image and age.

• Your bad habits. Problems will arise if you are constantly tardy, resist interaction with an irate patient, do not support staff in front of the patient and do not protect staff with forms that inform and define patient boundaries. For example, you must develop forms that patients sign prior to going into the clinic that clearly indicate the practice's collection policy.

• You do not control patients during consultation. It's your obligation to order, direct and prescribe. When the patient comes out of the exam room and questions the optician, front office personnel or technician as to what you want him to do, this lack of patient control creates a lack of respect, especially when you complain to staff about income. When you are not in control of the patient, income will always be a problem. It creates low unit sale per patient.

You and you alone are responsible for the respect you receive from staff and patients. Your behavior, demeanor, intelligence, appearance, punctuality and investment in your practice are all part of the puzzle to maximizing employee respect.

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: December 2006