Management Tips for Handling Difficult Staff Members

Handling difficult staff members in your practice is one of the most stressful and awkward things to deal with as a business owner. If you’ve got one or more staff members who you’re constantly having to reprimand because they’re late, or inconsiderate to patients or simply are not doing their work up to the standard you require, then this article is for you.

Your staff are the best form of leverage you have in your practice. Surrounding yourself with great staff and a great outside support team (eg medical marketing agency) frees up large chunks of your time, removes stress and headaches and enables you to work on those areas of your practice you’re most passionate about.

Conversely having just one staff member that’s subpar can cause months of sleepless nights, anxiety and money in your pocket. Nothing can hurt your patient retention rate faster than someone going on Yelp or Angie’s List and claiming they received poor service or had a terrible experience. Unfortunately, no matter what other effort you put into your physician marketing strategies, those kinds of reviews can really hurt you. And just one difficult employee can make a really significant negative impact on your patient care and services.

As a rule, people don’t go online to give good reviews when they’re happy with a physician’s services. Even when they are ecstatic about their appointment and treatment, people are less likely to write a good review for your practice than they are to write a bad review if they were even just mildly or moderately annoyed. With that in mind, you can see just how much a problem employee can hurt your practice, but how can you deal with them?

Take Action Now

First, if you ignore a single difficult staff member, the problem is not going to go away. In fact, it’s likely to get much worse, as they spread discontent throughout the office. When we’re talking about employee morale, a single bad apple really can spoil the bunch, as your problem employee is likely to be very vocal about their issues, making others feel the same way.

Or, if your problem is an employee who isn’t doing their work and is spending time on the clock goofing off, other employees are likely to see this and feel resentful. The whole situation can get ugly fast, so you want to deal with it as soon as possible, before the “infection” spreads to your whole team.

Have a Private Meeting With Them

As soon as you possibly can, schedule time to speak privately with your difficult employees. Take this opportunity to ask them what they’re having problems with and how you can help them. Then shut your mouth and listen. Your staff member(s) may have some legitimate complaints that they haven’t felt able to discuss with you before. If that’s the case, you may be able to come up with a solution together.

Consistently Document Problematic Behavior

Instead of putting up with problematic behavior – like tardiness or rudeness to patients – for a long period of time and seemingly randomly firing someone, Erika Andersen recommends in an article for Forbes that you consistently document it. Put a tiered warning system in place in which you document individual problems but give your employees a chance to straighten up. This could be something like:

  • First offense – A documented report of the incident goes in the employee’s file, signed by you and the employee.
  • Second offense – The employee gets a warning, along with a second report in their file.
  • Third offense – The employee gets temporarily suspended, along with another report in their file.
  • Fourth offense – Dismissal.

Of course, some offenses are worse than others. Some are worth verbally mentioning something to the staff, while others are grounds for immediate dismissal. Keep your physician reputation management in mind whenever you see poor behavior, disorganization, or bad patient service. To really work for you, your physician marketing efforts rely on you and your staff operating together as a unit.