According to a 2011 survey in the Huffington Post, nearly half of business owners believe that one of their employees should be fired “right now.” Dentists are no different, and like our other business counterparts, most clinicians hate the idea of having to let an employee go. We put it off for as long as we can and tend to look for the good in the employee, letting our team suffer because of our desire to see if we can get the employee to change. Hey, I’m just as guilty of it as the next person and remember, it hurts our team and bottom line to have an underperforming team member.
I worry that I may not be able to replace them, or perhaps hope that the good traits I’ve seen can somehow come to the surface if properly nurtured. But, maybe you see her strolling around the practice when everyone else is running. Perhaps she’s rougher than the rest or just doesn’t seem as motivated. But she’s really sweet and and she had a great interview, so maybe she’ll change. Maybe she just needs a little motivation. You obviously saw something in the employee when they were hired (more on the hiring process in another blog), but when it becomes clear that there’s something wrong, you MUST act and here are a few tips to help you:
- Always trust that little voice inside your head. You know the one I’m talking about. It tells you that the employee you hired last month just isn’t right. In 25 years in practice, that little voice has never been wrong but it often gets pushed to the back and quieted by justifications about why I should keep that employee.
- Have regularly scheduled reviews with ALL of your employees. Be honest and fair in your feedback and make sure they sign it when you’re done. Don’t make them gripefests. Discuss the areas where they are strong and where they need help and potential ramifications if there’s no improvement.
- NEVER be scared to let an employee go if they aren’t picking up their share. Underperforming team members will drag down the rest of the team and your bottom line will suffer.
- At the same time, don’t just immediately let someone go (without cause) if doing so will severely damage your infrastructure. I used to think it was unfair to look for a new employee behind an existing employee’s back, but an industrial psychologist at a business school told me that if that was my attitude, perhaps I was better suited as a teacher than a business owner. Ouch! Hint taken.
- Be as gentle as possible but clear and firm when letting an employee go. Think bandaid removal; The faster, the better. Please, no hour long meetings to do this.
- If the reason they’re being let go has nothing to do with cause (injuring a patient, fraud, beligerence, etc.) but I need to let them go immediately, I WILL give them a week or two severance (depending on how long they were with me). I NEVER forget that this person relies on me to pay their bills and my abundance mentality leads me to believe that it’s the right thing to do. It softens the blow and gives them an opportunity to look for a new job.
- I WILL NOT act as a reference if I’ve let them go. If they are foolish to list me as a reference, I will never say anything bad about them to a potential employer, but I will not “recommend” them in any way.
- I always hold a small meeting after they are gone to let the team know why and what happened, with as few details as possible, choosing instead to discuss the broader picture and how it will help all of us.
- I NEVER badmouth the previous employee. It only makes your team wonder what you’ll possibly say about them if they’re not around.
I once heard a famous consultant tell me: “Underachievers tease us with their potential.” I’ve never forgotten that and it’s served me well. If a team member isn’t right for my practice, they have to go. Everyone is expendable, replaceable and upgradable. The next time you try to rationalize this away, remember that the bottom line of your practice and the mouth you feed depend on a team that get the job done. One bad cog can cause the entire machine to fall apart and your personal financial health depends on a smoothly oiled machine.
So, when that little voice tells you that you need to let someone go, as the commercial says:”Just do it”. You’ll never look back with regret and the more you do it, the more you’re realize that it’s the greatest way to upgrade your practice.
All the best,
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