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Know when it's time to fire an employee


How to recognize a staff member who is sinking your practice.

You do your best to hire the right people. You know how important a strong team is to your success, after all. Sometimes, though, it just doesn’t work out and certain employees end up doing the practice more harm than good - which is a situation you can’t afford to ignore.  

Team members who aren’t performing as they should can cause a lot of problems. They lead to extra stress, cost you money, hurt the practice image and jeopardize your marketing efforts. Trust me, patients can tell when team members are struggling with their role or just aren’t very motivated. It shows in how they interact with them and with other team members.

As difficult is it can be, you have to know when it’s time to fire an employee - and take the appropriate action. Here are a few signs an employee is actually damaging your practice, rather than helping move it toward success and profitability:

  • The employee refuses to follow established office policies

  • The employee is dishonest, argumentative or difficult to get along with

  • The employee fails to carry out responsibilities and is not a team player

  • The employee gossips about patients, the doctors or other team members

  • The employee has a bad habit of rolling his or her eyes during meetings or delivering snide comments

  • The employee doesn’t show up to work on time and is just about always late coming back from lunch

Of course this list isn’t all-inclusive, but you get the idea. How do you handle difficult employees? I suggest you establish a progressive discipline system. That means penalties become stronger if misconduct or poor performance is repeated. Discipline might begin with a verbal reprimand, proceed to a written reprimand, then suspension, and ultimately termination.

This should play out over a 60-90 day period, unless the behavior is so bad you need to terminate employment right away. This gives employees the opportunity to make changes and improve their performance.

Explain to these team members, both verbally and in writing, the specific issues you want addressed, and document exactly what needs to change. For each case, put together an agreement that you and the employee sign, and provide continual feedback (that you also document) throughout the 60-90 day period.

Related article: How do you know when to let an employee go?

Ideally, employees who go through this process will make the necessary changes. Unfortunately, that usually doesn’t happen, which means you’ll likely have to dismiss these team members. Just remember it’s important to consult with your attorney before terminating any of your employees.

Problem team members can damage your practice, cost you patients and even derail your marketing efforts. I know it isn’t easy, but it’s important to recognize when it’s time to fire an employee and to take appropriate action. Your practice will be much better off when you do.

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