Managing Misconduct

Episode 038

This week we continue our conversation about managing staff misconduct by discussing a progressive approach to discipline.  You will note this was a shorter episode since I had a cold, as you will hear in my voice.  Thanks for listening and have a great weekend!

More About This Show

On today’s show we’re going a bit deeper into staffing issues. Specifically conduct problems – what happens when staff members break rules, ignore regulations, and violate procedures? How do you handle situations when they won’t do what they need to do?

Personally I hate this type of thing and I’ve been inconsistent with my handling and approach to it in the past. But my office manager, Paul, has helped me to become more regimented and on point with my response to these issues. He brings a wealth of knowledge and firsthand experience to the team and to this topic, as a result we’ve worked out a better system.

When a staff member has problems, we implement our disciplinary response. The first step is to analyze what was done wrong, dig into the facts and make sure we know what is accurate. If another staff member reported misconduct, we make sure it isn’t hearsay.

It’s also important to make sure all staff know the rules, so we look into whether or not the staff member was adequately informed about the rules and chose to break them anyway. Earlier in my career I wasn’t always strict about having rules and regulations in place, nor informing my staff of the practice’s policies and expectations.

I’ve learned you have to have rules and regulations in order for people to follow them. You can’t expect people to follow the rules if you don’t have them! And you must be consistent with the rules.

Also you have to communicate what the rules are and how you want them followed, then you must reinforce them.

I’d recommend getting a policy manual to help enforce the rules, even minor infractions.  You have to enforce the small things or the bigger ones will certainly show up too.

In my practice we have in place what we call a progressive discipline model. Every infraction is responded to in increasing intensity and severity, step by step. Typically we start with
verbal counseling. We have a conversation with them (and I strongly believe in praise in public and punish in private, so these are kept private).

The next step is written counseling, a written memo is issued if the same rule is again broken after the verbal counseling step. The first memo doesn’t go on file but if the infraction happens again then the third step is a written memo that goes in their file.

If misconduct occurs again then it has an impact on their annual evaluation, and impacts pay raises and bonuses. After that, the person is suspended without pay. I’ve never gotten that far because the few people on my staff who have reached this point quit before it goes any farther.

Now that you know my response to misconduct, I’m curious to hear what you do in your office. How do you discipline in your practice? Do you have a plan in place already? If so, how do you back it up? If not get one – after you listen to today’s episode of Business of Dentistry!

Tweetable: “Make sure you’ve got the rules in place!

Episode Resources

Episode 37 of Business of Dentistry
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Understanding Staff Problems

Episode 037

This week we discuss a way to look at problems from your staff. To keep it simple, I have boiled the reasons staff fail to do the things they are asked to do into two categories. Listen in to hear what they are and find out my thoughts about staffing issues on episode 37 of Business of Dentistry. Thanks!

No Problems

More About This Show

Staff problems are something we all encounter from time to time, sometimes we even have to deal with them on daily. But I wondered why? Why are we dealing with this type of issue so much? It’s time-consuming, finance-consuming and is often very frustrating.

So I did some digging and some research into this area. I wanted to understand where these problems are coming from and what can be done to minimize them. I also wanted to find ways to improve my approach to handling problems as they arise within my staff and in my practice.

Typically any problem with a staff member comes down to one of two things: it’s either conduct or performance-related. And on today’s episode I’ll explain what each of those mean, and give specific examples to illustrate the differences.

A conduct issue is when something isn’t done the way it is meant to be done. And a performance issue is something not being done because the person doesn’t know how or hasn’t been properly trained on that task. It is a lack of knowledge or training, rather than a person’s lack of willingness as it is with conduct.

To highlight an example of this take someone who is chronically late. Being late happens every now and again for most people, but someone who is consistently late has a conduct issue. They know they have to arrive at work at a specific time, just like everyone else, but they don’t do it. They don’t change their behavior even though they have been instructed on the proper procedure (arrive to work on time) – that makes it a conduct issue.

Scheduling your patient visits and your overall office workflow is another matter however. This is a performance issue in most cases. In my office we are light years ahead of where we were in this area and that’s because I’ve set up procedures and trainings for my staff on the proper way to schedule our day to day office activities.

Soap notes are another great example of an area of performance as is your sterilization process. Although we don’t have a sterilization problem, I speak from experience when I tell you I had to take responsibility and accountability for performance issues with my staff.

Ultimately performance problems stem from a leadership problem, and that means setting aside our egos to look at where we have gone wrong and what we can to rectify the situation. In the past I’ve allowed things to slide that led to poor performance in some areas from my staff, but once I stepped up and created proper training procedures for them the problems subsided.

While I’d like to be able to tell you that you’ll never have any staffing problems, that’s just not the case. So the next time something comes up in your office ask yourself if it is a conduct problem or a performance problem. Is the problem a result of improper or lack of training, or is the person (or persons) simply not ignoring the office guidelines?

I’d love to know what you discover the next time you have an incident with your staff, and how you handle it. Leave a comment here or drop me an email anytime! Thanks for listening to today’s edition of Business of Dentistry.


Tweetable: “We have to hold ourselves accountable as practice owners.”

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