As baseball season winds to a close, a handful of elite teams have distinguished themselves by clinching post-season berths.
Among other things, they have managed to sustain, over the course of a long season, that important balance where everyone, players and coaching staff alike, understands their roles. They complement one another, both on the field and off. This has assured them a shot at the ultimate goal of winning on the grandest stage of their profession.
In a similar way, every physician’s office has its own culture and set of ethics. Each one employs staff with a variety of temperaments, and skillsets. Like highly touted prospects, some will deliver—and others will not.
Some will assimilate into the broader culture of the practice, and some will alienate themselves from it (nowhere on the hiring sheet is there a box for “plays well with others”).
You thought you assembled the best practice staff possible. You employed a rigorous hiring process to bring the best talent onboard, but now it has become obvious that one or two aren’t working out. Here are some things to keep in mind when faced with staff firings.
Many (if not most) physicians stay as far away from the termination process as possible. Doctors usually lack the human-resource (HR) training and finesse necessary for this kind of situation anyway. But there are also upsides to being present at the firing of an employee.
As the leader of your practice, your presence can highlight for this particular staff member how serious the matter is, and how difficult it was to make the decision to fire them. A head doctor’s presence also adds a sense of finality to the decision. No appeal, no second meeting. This is it. “You’re fired.”
A doctor can also view a staff termination meeting as a learning experience. You’ve heard countless times that your practice is a business, and this is just another aspect of running one.
Admittedly, you are not expected to perform this duty regularly. If your administrator or office manager will be doing the talking and handling the finer points of HR management, then you won’t be performing anything at all. Your presence enforces their authority, strengthens your resolve in breaking difficult news to someone, and extends a level of respect to the employee.
A fine line
There is no law stating that you must be present during the dismissal of a staff member. Depending on the size and scope of your practice, it may make more sense to leave the unfortunate task to your office manager and CA. But whether you choose to
be in the room or not, as the leader of your practice it is up to you to enforce certain guidelines for this situation— especially the kind of language used.
Be as professional as possible and avoid defensive tactics. Your staff member did not perform their duties adequately or violated some trust.
They became a liability. They may ask for a detailed description of why they are losing their job. You can do this if you choose. However, neither you nor your office manager should feel the need to validate the decision or assuage your feelings of guilt. This can quickly degenerate into the “blame game,” which will only lead to hostility.
There is a fine line to walk here.
You want to treat this employee with the respect they deserve while executing the will of your practice. Unless it becomes necessary, avoid escorting them off the property. Let them gather their effects and leave without incident. This ensures that, while their pride and confidence may be shaken, their dignity remains intact.
Dodge the bullet
No, we are not suggesting you ignore legitimate business reasons for firing a bad employee out of sympathy—or even fear. But you can avoid the slings and arrows of termination if you acutely examine your current rubric for hiring. Hire small; fire small.
What is it that your practice really needs? Expectations and job responsibilities should be outlined clearly and concisely, and new hires should be given the benefit of an orientation.
There are measures you can take to ensure that employees don’t fall through the cracks. Be accessible.
Encourage feedback. And when possible, create opportunities for their professional growth.
Brian Torchin is the owner of HCRC Staffing in Philadelphia, whose mission is to incorporate years of medical and staffing knowledge to enhance the hiring experience. Torchin graduated from NYCC in 1995, and he has been helping DCs nationwide for the past 10 years to find quality staff for their practices. He can be contacted at 267-251-5275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.