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You Are Not the Boss of Me*!

By: Laurie Houghton

The phrase "you are not the boss of me" can be a means of deflecting unwelcome assertions of authority. But as doctors with the wellbeing of your patients and success of your practice on the line, sometimes you may need to be just that - the boss. This means effectively managing staff to ensure the success of the practice.

Unfortunately, managing employees may not always be a fun or easy task. Some doctors may say, "I love everything about my profession except correcting my employees." Yet correction may sometimes be necessary. If an employee behaves in a way that does not conform to the vision of the practice, everyone may be negatively impacted.

The following are several actions you may take to help keep your team on track:

Document policies & procedures

  • Create an employee manual that details policies for everyone in the office, such as dress code and phone use. Professional associations, industry-specific employment consultants, and payroll companies are excellent sources for employee manual templates.
  • Develop a procedures manual for each job description that describes responsibilities of the position, such as records filing or appointment follow-up. Include any personal competencies required for the role, for instance, communication or interpersonal skills. This can be a big task, but may be worth the effort if it helps lead to consistency in performance and stability in practice operations.

Communicate expectations and consequences

While documentation of expectations is important, you may make an even greater impact by communicating personally to your team members about those issues that are especially important to you, and assigning consequences for non-compliance. For example, one of your non-compliance issues may be employees who use their mobile phones for texting and reading email during work hours. Use your team meetings to remind staff members that this will not be tolerated. Communicating both expectations and consequences helps ensures no one is surprised should you need to take action to preserve the integrity of your practice.

Don't procrastinate - your practice is at stake

Some of us may procrastinate when it comes to doing something unpleasant. But in the case of employee management, failing to confront inappropriate behavior or poor performance at the time it happens can lead to misunderstandings or escalation of a bad situation. Plus, it may leave your practice vulnerable to negative impressions by patients. When you see a problem behavior, address it immediately. It may only take a quick, private discussion to clear up a misunderstanding. If you find you need to terminate an employee, consider consulting an attorney who specializes in employment law.

Overcome your fear of confrontation

Why might we be afraid to confront employees and other people in our lives, even when we're clearly entitled to do so? As social beings, we fear rejection by those with whom we are upset or angry. Yet the ability to confront is an interpersonal tool we can use in both our personal and business lives. The key is to do it in a constructive manner. Following these guidelines may help you manage your fear of the confrontation process.

Research. Before entering into a stressful conversation with an employee, do your research. Understand and be able to articulate the behavior you are addressing before you begin the conversation. Has it happened multiple times? If so, how many, and when? Check your employee handbook to see if the situation or behavior is addressed, and if so, bring the book along for direct reference.

Script. Create a script for starting the conversation and practice it with a family member or friend. A sample script should describe your expectation, the behavior you found objectionable, and how this made you feel and why. Then restate your expectation and possible consequences for non-compliance. In a situation where an employee was seen using her personal phone during business hours, the script might go like this:

  • "As we've outlined in our employee handbook, using personal phones during work hours is not allowed.
  • This morning I saw you texting on your phone while at the front desk.
  • This made me feel angry because it makes us look unprofessional and creates the perception that patients aren't getting the care they deserve.
  • I expect you to not use your personal phone during work hours. If this happens again I will have to confiscate your phone during business hours."
  • If this happens again, I will issue a formal written warning.  Multiple written warnings could lead to termination of your employment.

Remember, you are the boss of your practice team, and setting clear guidelines and expectations is part of the job!


About the Author

Laurie Houghton, a Practice Management Advisor at Wells Fargo Practice Finance, has fourteen years of experience as a practice management consultant, clinical experience as a dental hygienist, an MBA in management and a certificate in mediation. This gives her an unusually broad base of experience with which to prepare doctors for their transition to ownership, and to help doctors diagnose and remedy practice problems with creative options. Laurie can be reached at 1-800-377-7340 or laurie.houghton@wellsfargo.com.

View all articles by Laurie Houghton

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All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

All financing is subject to credit approval.