If you’re a manager or executive, you’d probably rank “letting employees go,” at or near the top of the list.
Dismissing an employee – no matter how warranted due to poor performance – isn’t a “fun” activity. Unfortunately, it must be done from time to time to maintain the health of your business. Beyond this, the only thing that might make the experience even more unpleasant is uncertainty about the decision itself. In other words – being unsure about whether this person should or should not be let go.
And it’s with that in mind that I’m writing this post. I wanted to provide a few pointers that might help if you find yourself “stuck” on whether a specific staff member should or should not be let go.
As a note: I am not an employment attorney and I cannot give you legal advice. I highly recommend that you have an employment attorney and that you consult them prior to any employee termination.
To begin, I find you can generally categorize terminations into two basic categories:
A. The newer employee that is obviously not a good fit performance-wise for your office and
B. the long-term employee whose performance has dropped off and is no longer performing adequately on the job.
Letting Employees Go Who Are In Category A
“A” is easy to spot and if handled quickly, saves a lot of time and stress. With a newer employee, you can usually see that they’re not working out in the first week or so – i.e. poor performance despite proper training; they’re messing things up that they have already been trained on, creating upsets with patients, etc. etc.
I have seen it where a doctor or Office Manager – in the face of these repeated mess-ups – will keep the staff member around with the “hope” that, with time, things will improve. Now if you were to ask any of these doctors or OMs about this, they will usually tell you that their first impulse was to let the person go. And then they didn’t want to “deal with it” so they didn’t. This rarely works out and only costs you more in the long run.
You hire someone, and you know within a week in they’re not going to be a good fit. You do nothing. Weeks go by and this person gets comfortable. They think they’ve secured a job; they start planning their lives around this job and this income. And then, at your wits end, you finally let them go, telling them things “aren’t working out.”
The problem: you knew things weren’t working long before this. If you’d handled it then, it would have been far less shocking to the employee and they could have continued their job hunt. Now, they have to start all over again.
So, in many cases like this, it’s kinder to handle them early on.
Letting Employees Go Who Are in Category B
Now, obviously it’s a more difficult situation when you find yourself having to dismiss a long-term employee. Maybe it’s someone who has been with your office for a while and their job performance has really dropped off. And despite correction, training and so on, it’s not turning around. These can be tough – after all at one point they may have been a great team member.
The key-note with all of this is JOB PERFORMANCE. It’s a decent benchmark to base your employment decisions on. Is the person doing their job at the level required of your practice? If they are, great! Let them continue. Address mistakes and issues as they arise for the person to correct, but overall, if they are performing, let them get on with it.
If job performance drops, the first thing you might do with a long-term employee is talk to them. Tell them your concerns with regards to the execution of their duties and give them the opportunity to fix it. See if something changed in the practice that is contributing to the performance drop. However, if the issue does not resolve, this is when you might have to make the hard decision for the good of the practice.
When this happens, you again don’t want to drag things out. If you’ve hit the “end of the road,” don’t delay. Act.
And with all of that said, there are two last points I’d keep in mind when letting an employee go:
- Do not do it in the heat of the moment. Don’t yell and tell the person how bad you think they are, etc. Losing a job is upsetting, especially for a long-term employee. There’s no reason to be nasty, impolite, rude, and so on. Handle it with class and compassion. Be polite, kind and civil in your discussion – no matter how the employee reacts. Getting nasty and mean is not going to make the conversation or action go any better in my experience.
- ALWAYS have a witness when you’re terminating an employee. Don’t do it alone. For example, if you’re letting a dental assistant go, have the Office Manager there with you (by the way, our COO Jeff Blumberg, wrote an article about what an Office Manager is and why you need one here). This can save you from false claims later down the road as then it doesn’t become your word against the other person’s.
And like everything, if you’ve made the decision to move on then do it quickly. Don’t handle tomorrow what you should handle today and use the individual’s job performance as a benchmark of their value to your practice- not who they know, who they are or what gossip has been spread about them.
I hope this helped! If you’d like help with a specific scenario or if you want more information on MGE, contact us at 1(800) 640-1140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ashley Fuegel provides this general dental practice management advice to furnish you with suggestions of actions that have been shown to have potential to help you improve your practice. Neither MGE nor Ms. Fuegel may be held liable for adverse actions resulting from your implementation of these suggestions, which are provided only as examples of topics covered by the MGE program.