Three Simple Questions To Help You Manage Disruptive Employee Behavior

Guest post by Brenda S. Campbell

One of the most challenging aspects of practice management is managing the people within the business. It can feel overwhelming to manage employee attitude, behavior and performance, especially if confrontation doesn’t come naturally.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 9.56.40 AMI have had the privilege of working for an amazing pediatrician for the last fifteen years. He’s been in practice for decades and has taught me so much about practice management, especially the “people” part.

He has helped me understand that it is possible to manage any employee behavior and expectations using a simple strategy.

When confronted with unsatisfactory employee behavior and performance, it is important to focus on three questions:

You send a message to the rest of the staff no matter how you handle the issue.

What’s the message you want to send?

If you choose to overlook the behavior, the message to your staff is that it is okay to continue this behavior and that it is acceptable.

If you address a behavior, it sends a message to everyone that the behavior is NOT okay and will not be tolerated. Often times, even though they may not say it, the staff appreciate that you address negative behavior.

For example, we had a telephone triage nurse who had a lot of experience, worked for us for several years and was solid in the advice she would give.

Her customer service skills, however, were lacking. I had to make a decision about the message I wanted to send to the rest of the staff.

What you allow is what will continue. Are you going to allow it to continue?

Make the decision to address the behavior and do it. Don’t put it off. Ask, “May I give you some feedback?” Let them know the problem with their behavior, set expectations and move on. They’ll either choose to correct their behavior or they won’t.

We’ve found that employees generally receive feedback in one of two ways. Some are completely unaware that their behavior was being perceived in a negative manner and are quick to ask how they can fix it.

The others become defensive and refuse to take ownership of the behavior often blaming external factors.

With our triage nurse, I knew that I needed to address her customer service problem, particularly her tone which could be perceived as condescending and snarky at times.

Her response fell in the defensive category and she said “somehow I get all the nasty parents on the phone.” I explained to her that she was the common denominator in each complaint and that her tone was the problem.

“Ma’am” is not necessarily respectful if delivered in a sarcastic manner. It was her behavior that made the parents become, in her eyes, “nasty”.

Are you better off with them or without them? Is it time to let them go?

If, after you’ve given the feedback and they have not changed their behavior, it’s time to make the decision about the employee’s future.

As you may have guessed, it didn’t take long for another parent to complain about the triage nurse and, at that point, we decided that even though we’d be down a phone triage nurse in a busy sick season, it wasn’t worth allowing negative behavior to continue thereby sending the wrong message to the staff.

We have found that when it comes to working with someone who behaves poorly or working short-staffed most employees would rather work a little harder until we find someone who is a good fit for our practice.

It’s certainly easier in the short term to ignore problematic employee behavior but it’s always costly in the end.

Allowing negative employee behavior to continue can hurt your employee morale, productivity and retention as well as cause you to lose patients. When we reflect on the occasions where we’ve had to let someone go after asking these three questions, we have yet to regret a single one.


Brenda Campbell is a practice administrator for The Pediatric Center at Frederick. You can check out her practice by clicking, here. She is a member of AAP’s subcommittee Pediatric Practice Management Alliance (PPMA). This article originally appeared in SOAPM’s Quarterly Newsletter.


 

The Value of Having Core Values

The airline passenger was upset with the flight crew. So she wrote a letter to the CEO to inform him she did not approve of how the crew was making jokes while doing the pre-flight safety checks.

In her letter to the CEO, she made clear that security announcements ought to be taken serious because of how important they were.

 

Airline Customer Service Values Core Values Business CultureAs it turns out, the passenger that wrote the letter was a frequent flyer of the airline. Surely a customer the airline wants to keep. Right? So how did the CEO respond?

“We’ll miss you” and added, “Rest assured that this company, like all good airlines, take safety very, very seriously.”

Most CEOs would have probably sent an apology letter saying things like it was not their intention to offend her; he’d look into to the matter; they value her opinion and appreciate her business. But not Southwest airline’s CEO.

What Can We Learn From The CEO’s Response?

There are many lessons in the Southwest story we can glean and apply to our practices. However, among the most valuable lesson for me, is the importance of having a set of defined core values.

Why Are Core Values Important?

Core values are used to establish a company’s guiding principles. They serve the distinct purpose of determining behavior and action.

Without core values, employees do not know what is right from wrong. Therefore, they have no choice but to make decisions based on their values. Which, of course, may or may not align with the company’s values.

However, when a business establishes them, they assist in determining the right path. Moreover, they give employees a reference in fulfilling business goals.

Southwest Airline’s Core Value

Embedded into Southwest’s company culture, is a set of core values. Here is how they define it for their employees:

We believe in Living the Southwest Way, which is to have a Warrior Spirit, a Servant’s Heart, and a Fun-LUVing Attitude.

No Apologies

For Southwest, working hard and playing harder is one of the company’s guiding principle. Fun is part of what the airline is all about. That is why the CEO did not apologize on behalf of the employees. The employees were embracing one of the company’s unwavering value.

Core Value For Salud Pediatrics

One of our practice’s cornerstone principles is profitability. This may seem obvious or inherent knowledge considering our practice is a small business.

But for us, profit is a core value because our financial gains are the driving force behind our ability to fulfill our mission to advocate and care for children in our community.

In other words, profitability is essential to our ability to provide health care services. Without it, we would not be able to stay open. Thus profitability is a responsibility to the community we serve, not merely a requirement for our business.

Prepared To Lose A Patient

Recently, a parent from our practice questioned our policy that requires patients to leave a credit card on file with our practice.

After explaining the reason for the policy and addressing her concerns about identity theft, the mom was still apprehensive.

I told her that her concerns were legitimate and that I understood where she was coming from, but that the policy was non-negotiable. I explained to mom that we felt so strong about the importance of the credit card policy, that we were willing to lose her family as patients.

Policies & Procedures vs. Core Values

We all have rules in place. Even Southwest, with their FUN-Luving attitude, has them. Going through the pre-flight safety announcements is one of many, I’m sure.

Having systems in place ensure efficiency and safety, among other things. But It is impossible to come up with a scheme for every single potential situation. There will always be situations that fall outside of the “policy.”

Core values, however, can be used in situations that fall outside the parameters of policies and procedures.

Does your practice have a core value statement?

If so, what does it say? Are you prepared to lose patients over it?

 


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