Q: A couple of staff quit and are badmouthing me in the community. Is there something I can do about it?
While reasons can vary, many people will badmouth like this when there is an unhandled upset about something. Now, there are usually signals that this upset exists before they quit (or are let go). So if possible (and appropriate), when an employee is leaving your practice, you might want to smooth things over with them so as to ensure that no one ends up holding a grudge.
Sit down with them, be pleasant and address their concerns so they don’t feel the need to get even with you. If you did this and smoothed out any upsets before they left—even if it was of their own doing due to non-performance—you might find that you wouldn’t be in this situation now.
For that matter, when you fire someone – there’s no need to be mean, nasty and so on. Losing one’s job is bad enough, even under the best of circumstances. Being told how horrible you are doesn’t make the experience any easier. Whenever I’ve let someone go, I try not to add anything (like a bad attitude on my part) to it. I keep it calm and respectful; I don’t do anything that would make it worse than losing their job already is.
And it’s not always going to work out with every employee. Sometimes it’s just not the right fit for whatever reason; and that doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, it just means it isn’t working out. It really doesn’t matter who’s “fault” it was that things didn’t work out. They may be completely in the wrong—or not—but that’s not what’s most important. What is important is sorting things out so they end cordially. Proving that you’re right and they’re wrong really doesn’t serve anyone in the end.
Now, if you already have someone out there bad mouthing you and you really want to handle it, contact the person, take them out lunch, and sort out the upset. Be the bigger person here. Again, it doesn’t serve you to be “right.” It does serve you to restore friendly communication with them.
As a final note, with my suggestions, I’m assuming we’re handling a basic upset – NOT: they’ve embezzled from you, are suing you, they’ve endangered patients and other such things. While I would still suggest handling each of these with a cool, logical head, I wouldn’t recommend you take them to lunch, have a meeting or so on. These issues would be matters for your employment attorney or other applicable professionals.
(Related: Seven Steps to Well Trained Staff)
Q: My hygiene schedule keeps falling apart. How can I get it under control?
The fact that it keeps falling apart could be due to three things:
1. Nobody is really in charge of filling the hygiene schedule. (By the way, a hygienist being in charge of their own schedule is unrealistic because they would only have time to fill it when the system fails. So it has to be a front desk job.)
2. The person filling the hygiene schedule either has no time to do it, isn’t trained to do it, or isn’t competent.
3. Your hygienist is upsetting patients and you’re unaware of it.
So your first step is to investigate which one it is. These are your ONLY three reasons. It is not due to having “bad patients” or your community. You have to realize that the problem is internal.
So really take a look at what’s happening in your practice and figure out which of the three above reasons it is. Once you’ve done that, the solution should be clear. If not, you can always contact me or another consultant here at MGE and we’ll help you figure it out.
Q: I have a really good person who applied for a job, but she’s out of my price range. Should I stick to my budget or should I give her what she wants?
You have to do a quick equation here: If this person actually does what they say they can do—how much extra income will the practice make?
Every once in a while a real superstar shows up on your doorstep and you definitely don’t want to waste that opportunity because you’re too rigid in your pay range. But… this is pretty unusual.
A great front desk person that can also handle treatment acceptance and can consistently fill the schedule with productive appointments may add $3,000 worth of production/collections a day. That’s worth a little extra on the payroll. So if it really seems like a candidate can do this, and they come with solid references and a proven track record of doing it, I’d give it a try. Worst case scenario is that they can’t actually do what they said they can…and you reevaluate your arrangement after a month.
So yes, every once in a while you can get lucky. My personal inclination is to give it a try if it really seems promising. I mean, how much do you spend on marketing or clinical gadgets? A really good treatment coordinator or office manager can do far more for your production long-term than a new CEREC or x-ray machine.
As an executive, you have to evaluate how much this person will be worth to the practice from a monetary perspective—and with that increased production, will the extra expense be worth it? Within 30 days you’ll know whether it really was. The key is that you can’t be scared to change the arrangement or let them go if it isn’t going as expected.