The Domino Effect

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How one bad decision can multiply your problems

Ever look at how one simple innocent decision can influence a not-so-pleasant chain of events? Often it is the outcome of wanting to make things easy and less complicated, along with being a kind, caring and trusting employer.

In the business of operating a dental practice while working in close proximity to your employees and fellow co-workers, often decisions are made as though we were interfacing with friends.  Granted, in our business the friendships are quickly developed.  We’re a small group so finding ourselves connected on a personal level is quite common.  There are some wonderful things that we can say about developing relationships like ours that become long lasting friendships (I know because I have made many of my own).  Nonetheless, lots of “fall-out”, as I call it, can result from not managing your practice as the business that it really is.

It can be as innocent as granting an employee time off without confirming that there aren’t any scheduling conflicts to make sure the loss of one person will not affect the efficiency and production for the day.  This doesn’t even take into account the hardships it could create for the team that is left to support the activities of the day.  And what about the lack of attention the patients might experience, or the fact that they can easily see the additional chaos and angst the team will most likely be exhibiting? Will all of your patients get the time that they deserve?

Another example I have experienced is when one of my client does not see the value or need in conducting background checks and drug testing for their employees.  “Oh gee Deb, I trust them, since most of them have been here a while and it’s just another thing that I have to incorporate into my already busy schedule”.

Talk about “fall-out” and what an undetected less-than-honorable employee can cause for the group and your practice!! Some of the most talented, well spoken, gifted dental professionals have been known to fool many sharp and intelligent employers.  The relatively easy process to safeguard future stress and heartache can be handled quite nicely via a number of very reputable and BBB approved websites.

Not only is an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure, but once you initiate this as part of your interview process you will efficiently narrow your field of job candidates.  I always encourage sharing this information early during the interview process. This will enable you to eliminate candidates that do not fit your practice requirements prior to moving forward with your systems.  Please do note that you WILL need to retroactively screen all of your current employees once you put this element in play.  Otherwise it could be considered discrimination to the incoming team members who are being asked to comply.

So when you think about cutting corners with systems or protocols to save time and trouble you might want to think again. In some cases it is based on saving money. Really?  Are you aware that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been embezzled from dental practices over the past 20 or so years? Are you thinking that you strive to be more than a great boss and that you also want to be their trusted friend?

Think it over before you react and keep in mind that this is a business first.  Being a warm and caring boss is not a bad thing, but it is easy to slip into complacency if we are not consistently working to maintain professionalism and integrity. The chain reaction that a poor decision can cause will probably not be worth the precious little time and expense that would prevent serious issues.

 

Trouble in Paradise – When parting ways is the only way*

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Part 2

*Please note that the protocol presented here only applies to an employee who had truly added value to your practice, and other than not being a fit for the culture due to not agreeing with the changes that needed to be made would still be employed there. This would not be applicable should the employee be a truly detrimental “Bad Apple”; the approach to which I will address in future posts.

Although it’s clearly uncomfortable for both the employer and the employee, for the health of the practice it’s essential that one of them “make the move”.  Addressing  the “elephant in the living room” and to cleanly make their separation is the ONLY way to relieve the pressure that has been building.  It’s likely that both are equally traumatized by what ultimately has to happen.

What could make the process easy on the employer is for them to understand that they are not necessarily sending this once valuable employee out in the cold.  Although they are not conforming to the practice style that you have created, they might still be very well suited for a different practice culture.  Sitting with them and having a frank discussion on this subject will begin to make the end result a little easier for both to handle.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that this employee couldn’t be a qualified, valuable team member for another practice–perhaps one that supports a program that aligns more comfortably with their way of working and thinking.  Just because you part ways doesn’t mean that either of you were wrong, or that the employee isn’t “hirable” by another practice. It’s just that for your particular environment, the fit wasn’t right.

Although giving references today is a slippery slope, it doesn’t mean that the outgoing dentist can’t support this team member by letting the new prospective employer know about all the good the employee  brought  to the practice.  In spite of the differences in how they viewed the practice philosophy the employee was still on time, was honest and trustworthy, knew the job well, and up until recently the patients and team members really enjoyed having them around.

There is nothing objectionable about sharing information based on the employee giving  their full “written” consent and approval  to share it. After all, they do have some wonderful qualities but now their way of seeing things going in the same direction are no longer moving together in unison and current goals are no longer aligned between the team member and the doctor.  Granted, this in itself could be cause for the potential new employer to say “thanks, but no thanks” because, regardless of the reason, he/she may still feel that this is not a candidate they would consider. That said, there could still very well be a dentist who is totally comfortable with what this candidate brings to their open position and how their practice operates.

The point is that it is not in the best interest of the employer or employee to continue to try and maintain an ongoing business relationship when every effort has been made to recover what has been lost, and yet it is clear that they are both fighting a losing battle. The current team will also respect the decision the dentist has made as the Practice Leader and how diplomatically he/she went about resolving the problem.

This approach will not only help the employer realize they have done their best and are continuing to support this long-term employee as best they can, but also the employee can appreciate the efforts being made by their present employer and should respect them for taking the high road. This solution will ultimately keep everyone content, including the present team which is no doubt feeling the stress along with the patients, and which may not realize exactly what the problem is, but can feel something uncomfortable in the air.

If and when the employee leaves, everyone understands that the explanation is simple: “He/she was a good employee and we will miss him/her, but it was time for us to part “friends”.  I often wonder why in these situations it is so common for doctors and team members to give a long and lengthy explanation when clearly details are not required.  Less is more.

Now watch as the cloud starts to lift and the environment suddenly softens and the pleasant, welcoming atmosphere returns once again.

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Trouble in Paradise? What to do?

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Part 1

So you as the employer have begun to see some signs along with a number of your team members who have pointed this out to you.  You are beginning to ask yourself if a particular employee appears to still be a fit for your practice.

TELLTALE SIGNS

  • Have you each grown in different directions and is your vision and focus no longer in tune with how she sees things advancing?
  • Is there resistance to accommodate the new changes you have begun to implement?
  • Does the employee in question appear to be “stuck” and unable to conform?

You know there was a time when she was so enthusiastic and positive; when she openly shared her delight to be there on a daily basis (which was visible to everyone). Where has this positive energy gone? And even more important than that is the biggest and most important question of all: what’s going on with her and can she rekindle the excitement and respect for the position she has held for years, or is there no way to recover this once “model” team member?

Often an in-depth, honest, open conversation can uncover some underlying reasons for this change and the relationship can be salvaged. But often it is a sign that it is time for both parties to “cut bait” and just move on.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF

  • Can this relationship that seems to be dwindling, be recovered somehow?
  • Did the conversation reveal any hidden reasons for the change in demeanor?
  • With some work and understanding can things be corrected putting everything back in its proper place again?
  • How long does an employer wait to see if and when positive changes begin to surface, or perhaps on the flip side, when they become increasingly more negative and possibly disruptive?

When time proves that nothing is going to change and significant improvements are not going to happen in spite of the “healthy” conversations between the two of you, then it is time for both to begin planning both of your futures.

Let’s assume that this all makes sense, and the approach to resolving this conflict has been handled appropriately thus far–but there is a catch.  Getting to this point is not at all uncommon, but what is even more prevalent in our business is the fact that now things just stagnate into status quo.

Neither the employer nor employee is ready to take things to the next level and make the necessary adjustments.  Why? Because it’s difficult for both of them to make the next move, partially out of fear and partially to avoid any uncomfortable conflicts between them, or the team, or in the case of the dentist/employer, the patients.  This is what they both have in common and why neither one is comfortable to further address things.

SO HERE’S WHAT HAPPENS

They both continue on with the same dynamics, the same disinterest, the same frustrations on both sides, and they continue to just roll along with no changes at all other than the fact that the work environment grows more and more awkward and the negative energy becomes more and more intense.  So what we have here is an environment that speaks unhappiness to all that enter it. Why? Because this is as far as the employee and employer are “emotionally” able to take it, and we are now left with not only a visibly unhappy practice culture, but two very unhappy people.

WHAT TO DO? – Part 2 coming soon.

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