Why keep a bad apple in the barrel?

badapple ripples

The “Ripple” Effect Resulting From Retaining ONE Inappropriate Employee

The one most prevalent theme that I’ve experienced during my tenure as an HR Dental Counselor and Dental Team Management Coach has been the negative effects of maintaining the wrong team member within the group.

I truly believe that this is the one major factor that contributes to the majority of stress, lack of poor customer service, efficiency, and in some cases business failures due to not taking proper and sometimes immediate action by the employer.

With this said, I felt it was time to address this problem head on, to be direct and supply my blog readers with a list of “indicators” that, when recognized and attended to, can avoid the fall-out that might result when an aggressive approach is taken.

First I’d like to review my observations as to why this phenomenon occurs as often as it does, and why in spite of all the major signs and problems it produces, business owners (in this case dentists) are reluctant to manage this area properly even though in their heart of hearts they know the numerous challenges that can result from delaying the inevitable.

“So why does this happen, Deb”? This is a question I’m asked frequently, mostly from team members.

Here is my assessment as to why the squeaky wheel, bad apple, or inadequate team member tends to get ignored and some of the questions dentists ask themselves to defend their decision to hold off and, in other cases, do nothing and hope that the employee simply resigns .

  • Dentists have a fear of confrontation (particularly if the reason the employee is not appropriate for the practice is due to an assertive personality).
  • “What will the patients think”?
  • “What will the other team members think”?
  • “What about the position it puts the dismissed team member and their family in? “How will they manage without this job and minus a pay check?”
  • “Who knows if I will ever find someone better”?
  • “Maybe she is the best there is for my practice.”
  • “Who has the time to go through the hiring routine again”?
  • “The team will be impacted by the inconvenience of the interview process and then there is the training”.
  • “Every new employee needs some training. No one on the team will have the patience for the new hire to get up to speed.”

And now the fall-out, and what results from maintaining this inappropriate employee:

  • They will cause unrest among the other team members, some of which you (the employer) may not even be aware of.
  • They make the workload tougher for the remaining valuable, hard-working employees.
  • Often the good employees lose patience with the unhealthy situation and they feel there is no alternative but to leave the practice.
  • Patients often don’t care to make waves, but there will be many that slowly drift off based on possible negative interaction they have experienced with the employee in question.
  • The team productivity is reduced greatly.
  • The team morale drops rapidly and it shows to those that enter the practice, i.e.; patients, peers and vendors.
  • You, the dentist, knows there is a black cloud hovering over your practice. You feel it, you know it, but attempt to ignore it and when the day is done the pressure hits you like a ton of bricks.
  • Often the negative energy that is experienced by those that enter your office can spread outwardly to the community you serve.

So in essence, we are sacrificing quite a bit just to maintain one ineffective team member. The impact is great, and involves many, as this non-valuable employee continues to maintain a position within your practice. Their presence infiltrates numerous areas and if not caught and attended to quickly, the damage can be great.

Why is it that this single person who is clearly disrupting the positive forward motion of a practice gets a “free pass”, while all the good, valuable team members are forced to work even harder adjusting to this “obstacle”. Not only is the environment disrupted, but they are now required to not only manage their responsibilities, but they are chugging even harder to pick up the slack so as to cover the areas that have been ignored by the inadequate employee.

Ultimately what has happened is that the employer is sacrificing the effectiveness of all the good, dedicated employees (not to mention the overall health of the practice) for the sake of this one underperformer.

I hope this insight might provide some food for thought to address this pervasive and devastating “epidemic”.

4 thoughts on “Why keep a bad apple in the barrel?

  1. Excellent points made, Deb. I come across the scenario of having a difficult employee on board, so often with my clients. Sometimes it can simply be a personality conflict between the dentist and the employee, however that usually is the result of conflicting values. All the more reason for dentists to establish their practice values as soon they begin practising! In Canada, the labour laws for firing make it doubly difficult and costly for dentists to eliminate “low hanging fruit”. The most common result, once that employee is removed, is “I wish I had done that a lot sooner!” I concur with you wholeheartedly that the best strategy when you have bad apples in your practice is to invite them to be successful somewhere else!

    • Loved your comments Kristin!! I do know that some of the Labor Laws in your country make it quite difficult for the employer. I think that once the employer sees that it was not as terrible as they had anticipated they all exhale and say “I wish I had done that a lot sooner.” Like so many things in life, anticipation can work havoc on our minds.

  2. Agreed. The first time is the hardest, however firing someone is never an easy thing to do and can be pretty costly and scary for a new dentist starting out. However, most dentists name ‘harmony and a positive work environment’ as one of their core values. When there is unresolvable friction, this core value is being breached and that affects the whole team. Reason enough to replace that person with one that has the right attitude and core values that match the dentist’s and the practice’s. Kristin Nickells, Dentist’s Coach.

    • It’s always smart to properly evaluate team member in question and offer them the tools and training if that’s what is holding them back. When all attempts fail thete is really no choice.

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