When The Boss Is Too Nice!

Posted: Thursday, February 25, 2010

02/18/2010 - CE: Teachable Moments Beyond the Event

02/11/2010 - Can You Tell That to My Boss?

02/05/2010 - Technician Utilization, Again

AKA: More musings from the Western Veterinary Conference…Via Las Vegas!

While speaking at WVC, it seemed like nearly every topic I addressed regarding employee performance was concluded by at least one, sometimes more, people coming to me and remarking that their practice owner was “too nice” to discipline or terminate problem employees.

Many of these attendees were in a position of some responsibility, such as a “lead technician” or supervisor, but lacked the authority to take matters into their own hands. They were frustrated, especially when they saw the effect on the rest of the team. These problem employees were setting bad examples, and unfortunately some of the others would follow in time. So, they sought my advice for how to turn things around.

Unfortunately, when it truly is not your “job” to correct employee performance, you have to work through the practice owner or a high-ranking manager. It needs to be clear how this chain of command should function when you first take on a supervisory position, and the higher-ups need to listen to your input. Yet there are those practice owners who just don’t like confrontation … apparently, there are quite a few of them.

When that is the case, then it is up to you to lay it on the line for the good of the practice.

Begin by refreshing your memory as to the practice mission or vision, if there is one. If there is not, then you will still proceed to the next step. Schedule a meeting with the practice owner and any other top manager in the practice (the one person directly below the practice owner, in most cases). When you begin the conversation at this meeting, do not begin with a laundry list of the employee’s wrong-doings or how it is making you feel. Instead, begin by briefly stating the positive attributes of the practice, such as its good reputation and quality patient care.

Then state that you are concerned for the future of the practice. Describe how this problem employee is affecting client and patient care, and the operations in the practice, rather than the attitude they are displaying.  Also provide several concrete examples of the behavior they are demonstrating. Explain how consistent and fair treatment of employees, both good and bad, will help the practice maintain quality team members and weed out those who won’t help the practice grow more successful.

As the supervisor, you may need to offer your services to counsel or correct the problem employee. The skills you will need include the ability to write-up a performance correction and then have the uncomfortable meeting with the problem employee. If the practice is not ready to hand over the discipline reins to you, you may need to request that you be present at the correctional meeting so that the employee understands the whole picture.

Keep in mind that in order for you to maintain any level of authority in the eyes of your employees, the higher management team needs to support your concerns and actions. If they can or will not, you may need to consider whether this is the right place for you to be making your mark as management material. 

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