Change Management: Dealing with a Disgruntled Employee

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The old adage “start as you mean to finish” is true for business, particularly when it comes to dental staff management.

Running any business has a multitude of challenges, none more demanding than staffing. There are rules to follow, forms to fill, vacation times to approve and coordinate and a range of other human resources related issues that need to be dealt with on a day to day basis.

There are resources in dental practice management to deal with those things, to ensure that rules and regulations are not overlooked, that the practice is adequately staffed at all times and that there are growth and advancement opportunities for everyone. But it’s the softer management skills that are often key to having happy employees.

Dental staff, like any other staff, need to feel valued, leaving them with the notion that they work in a challenging but welcoming environment. The unhappy dental employee, particularly in a small practice, can poison the well. It’s important to have a methodology in place for dealing with disgruntled employees, quickly and efficiently. By setting up a process as part of your dental staff management planning, you will be consistent in your handling of issues that crop up with your staff.

Step 1: Listen to the employee. They may have a legitimate cause to gripe and even if they don’t, the very fact of giving them a place to safely share their feelings creates a trust bond. Many times, a person’s dissatisfaction stems largely from feeling unheard.

Step 2: Provide constructive feedback to what you have heard. That said, don’t open Pandora’s Box. Don’t ask them what they would change if they could, if you have no intention of actioning any of their suggestions. This is lip service that won’t help the situation. The feedback can and should include suggestions for dealing with grievances in the future, methods that don’t include spending a lot of time in earshot of patients bemoaning this or that policy.

Step 3: Document the conversation and issues and make sure that they are in agreement with what you have noted. Better still, have them sign it as acknowledgment that they have read your notes and agree, in principle, that they contain what was discussed. Those notes should include consequences for the employee if they continue with negative behaviors all the while ignoring the suggestions made in step 2.

Step 4: Be consistent. Don’t listen to one employee about their unhappiness over the new patient management system and not another. Treat everyone the same way.

Step 5: Offer a solution that is mindful of existing processes. Taking the example of the staff person who is unhappy about the new patient management system, the solution is to find out WHY they are unhappy with it (are they afraid of it? Do they not understand how it works, despite the training course offered?). Once the cause of their distress is known, it should be relatively easy to fix (more training, more time shadowing a more senior employee, etc.)

Step 6: Follow through on consequences. There is little value in placing consequences on negative behavior if it is allowed to persist unchecked, so be prepared to follow through. That could mean, according to labor laws, a series of notes in their employee file, showing that they had been reprimanded and reminded that continued behavior of this nature will result in dismissal.

You need to do the work that you enjoy and that capitalizes on your skills and education. In other words, do what you do best. You don’t need to be bogged down in marketing plans and management conundrums. Let others do that.

Contact the experts at Dental Management Advisors and we’ll help you get back to doing more of what you love.

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