Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Here's How to Confront a Medical Practice Employee with a Performance Problem

medical practice HR
Dealing with difficult
employees.
Few physicians or managers relish the idea of confronting an underperforming staff member. Those few who don’t seem to be bothered by it have either become callous over the years or have a bit of a sociopathic streak. But like some of the tougher jobs facing parents, you have to steel yourself and “just do it.”

Having an organized method for dealing with this issue is the best approach. It provides a roadmap to keep you on track when emotions run high and threaten to deter you from the hardest parts, and it helps you treat employees consistently. Whenever you appear to go soft on a worker after being tough with another, you open yourself up to accusations of discrimination.

Committing to consistent accountability in your organization can yield incredible improvement in its effectiveness—if you also cultivate a supportive environment that shows an equal commitment to each employee’s professional success. That’s a hard balance—and it’s impossible if you aren’t sincere in your support for individual workers.

If your practice has a history of tolerating poor performance, your attempts to move toward accountability and quality improvement will meet daunting resistance from almost everyone. So you will have to develop nerves of steel to make it through the transition. The results, however, will be worth the pain and hard work.

There is a consistent pattern among managers at all levels: a pronounced lack of skill or will to sit down with under performers and have those tough conversations about their failings. Most experienced managers consider this skill set as part of basic management; but for various reasons, they lack the will to confront.

Here's a six-point methodology for effectively confronting an employee who doesn’t measure up:
  • Prepare. Gather your evidence of underperformance and organize it to present to the problem employee. Prepare an outline of what you want to say and how you want to say it. Keep in mind that your objective is to improve and salvage the employee—not to punish him or her.
  • Explain the issues. Keep your cool, and explain where he or she is failing and the effect it’s having on the organization. Avoid being harsh—but don’t “sugarcoat” it.
  • Ask for reasons and listen. Give the staffer an opportunity to explain his or her side of the story. Replace the tendency to scream, “What the blank were you thinking?” with something less confrontational: “Help me understand how this could happen.”
  • Solve the problem. If you have listened carefully, you should be able to ascertain the underlying problem(s) contributing to the employee’s failure. But continue to encourage the employee’s participation. Have a collaborative discussion. The employee will be more committed to a solution he or she helped develop.
  • Ask for a commitment, and set a follow-up date. Summarize the action plan to make sure you both understand it, and set a reasonable date to meet again and check on progress.
  • Express confidence and consequences. Early conversations (or minor problems) don’t require an emphasis on consequences, but sometimes you have to “turn up the heat.” Try to end on a positive note: “I know you can do this.”
Always document such meetings, and follow up without fail. Missing a follow-up date will seriously erode your credibility.

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