Difficult Staff – Tips for Handling the Challenge

Difficult Staff – One Challenge Among Many

The day-to-day challenges that dermatologists face in the office setting can often be more challenging than providing the actual treatment to a patient. For example, staff attendance, training, interpersonal issues, monetary challenges, and compliance regulations are just a few examples of the many pieces of the complex puzzle. As many know, your staff can truly make or break you and differentiate a standard practice from a stellar one. In fact, staff and human resource costs often account for a larger proportion of practice expenses than any other single expense source.  A difficult staff can end up costing you time away from patients, as well as monetary expenses.

Given all that is at stake, it is crucial to deal with staff interpersonal issues, gossip, and inefficiencies quickly and firmly. The “victim” of the drama is a deflated, sad, unproductive, nervous staff; this leads to a practice that can’t work at its best potential.

Take Time to Investigate the Situation

First, it is important to identify which of the team members is instigating the situation.  It is equally as important to identify those that participate or follow. I always tell my staff that you may not think you are part of the gossip directly.  However, the situation can still affect each and every member of the practice. I try to emphasize that gossip and drama are consistently successful at doing one thing – detracting from patient care – and thus the patient is the real victim in the end. Would you want your mother’s treatment to be affected by ineffective staff members? Would you want to see a doctor who may be great clinically, but in an office where you feel unwanted, uncomfortable, and uncared for? The answers are always “no” when I ask these rhetorical questions at our staff meetings.

It is also important to let the offending staff know that they may be under the impression that managers and superiors are unaware of what may be going on. However, that could not be farther from the truth; the physicians, managers, and others always have a sense of what is going on in the office.

Always Encourage Rather Than Criticize

Recently, I had a talk with a colleague from a dermatology practice in Birmingham, Alabama.  She eloquently pointed out that staff should show each other mercy and grace. If someone is frustrated at the level of ability another employee is showing, instead of criticizing, encourage them to help. Tell your staff that if they want to advance in the practice, they should lead by example and be kind and nurturing to others. Those are leadership qualities that set apart rising stars from those that will not advance.

Finally, do you best to encourage camaraderie and teamwork.  Try multiple solutions to improve your specific gossip or ineffective situation.  If things do not get better, it is important to remove the instigator/offender from the company for good.

There is no single recipe that contains the perfect balance to always make a  “hot, delicious practice soup”.  But, these are a few ways to ensure your “practice soup remains tasty and fresh.”

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