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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