Struggling with poorly performing employees?
We’ve all experienced the frustrations of patients not scheduled correctly, insurance information missed and patients disappearing from the schedule. We’re concerned about our reputation and our pocketbook. Poor performing employees lead to mediocre results for your practice. When unaddressed, a negative culture of drama and bickering can form.
Employees either live up to our expectations and job requirements or they don’t. As business owners, our role is to provide clarity and direction about what needs to be accomplished (job requirements) and how things need to be done (expectations). Clarity begins with a clearly stated vision for the practice. Clarity continues with detailed and documented position descriptions that indicate what each job requires in terms of knowledge, skills, and behaviors. The clarity of our expectations centers on how we want each team member to accomplish tasks and provide client service. As leaders of our practices, it is our responsibility to create the path for success.
When you don’t have clear performance descriptions and expectations documented and shared with every employee, you are not providing the vision and leadership needed to prevent poor performance. Without clear vision and position descriptions, employees are left wondering what exactly needs to be done, why, and when. With written, detailed vision and position descriptions, employees can hold up their end of the employee relationship. Most people will perform to expectations, as long as they know what is expected. However, when a workplace lacks clear job requirements and expectations, a misaligned culture ensues.
Your role as a practice owner includes communicating clearly and consistently what needs to be done and how so that a culture of mediocrity doesn’t grow. When you mentor for success, most often success is what will follow. Once a practice owner loses control and stops guiding day-to-day business operations, chaos and mediocrity can take over. Prevent mediocrity by taking a close look at how each team member’s performance is contributing to, or distracting from, the success of your practice.
The big question for you as a leader is:
How much longer are you willing to tolerate a poorly performing employee?
Not long? Then it may be time to let the person go. Telling someone that they are not a good fit for your practice is a difficult conversation. In some cases, it may be so difficult that you want to consult your human resources person and/or your attorney. Despite the difficulty of letting someone go, if you can no longer tolerate the behavior of the employee, it must be done. The practice culture and performance will continue to deteriorate if the poorly performing employee is allowed to stay. And often your well-performing team members will start leaving. Then, you end up with an underperforming practice that can spiral down and out of business.
A Little Longer? Then it is time to mentor for improved performance. Communicate clearly what must be achieved, what your expectations are, and a deadline for the improvements must happen. Without clear timeframes for accomplishment, an improvement process can drag on for months, or even years. Many people will achieve better results when given the opportunity to do so. However, some people choose to or simply cannot live up to the needs and expectations of the job for which they were hired.
Decision points: How much longer can you and your practice manage a poorly performing employee? How many more months can the team survive in a culture of mediocrity? Do you make a change now, or when? What must change for the person to stay on board at your practice?
Allowing People to Leave
Mediocre results feed on themselves growing into negative outcomes that can destroy your practice. Rather than allowing people to stay on the team and undermine the morale of other team members, allow them to leave. Sometimes this is difficult because the person has been on the team for so long that friendly relationships may be outweighing poor performance. However, employees often know when they are not performing well and not a fit for an organization. The honorable thing to do is to be straightforward, communicate what is not working, why, and indicate what must happen for an employee to stay with the practice. During this conversation with the poorly performing employee, you can also create an option for the employee to voluntarily leave the practice.
Mediocre performance is not tolerable. Underperforming individuals bring the entire team’s performance down several levels and impair overall practice performance. Mediocre performance can put clients, employees, and the practice at risk. A clinician who is underperforming may cause harm to a patient. An administrative person who is poorly performing may cause appointments to be mis-scheduled, payments to not be properly collected and applied, and can even cause the practice to lose clients. Consider the risks that currently exist in your practice because of poorly performing employees.
Allowing poorly performing employees to leave gives you more time to focus on what is working well in the practice, to coach the employees who are being successful and want to keep learning, and to maintain your energies for growing the practice successfully.
Decision point: Once you’ve clearly shared your vision, the job requirements, and your expectations and an employee is still not successfully delivering, it is time for the employee to leave your practice.
Nobody benefits when you subsidize incompetence, mediocrity, and poor results.
Subsidizing poor performance means that you are keeping someone employed who is not contributing to the success of the team and the practice. Every time we keep an incompetent employee in our practice, we are lowering morale, potentially creating dangers, and definitely risking the overall health of our practice.
Take a look at your financial dashboard. Can you determine whether the poor performance is directly affecting your financial statements? More than likely it is. Costs may be increasing. Cancellations may be on the rise. Utilization may be down. Identify the tangible results that are being negatively affected by the poor performance. Turn your hunches and frustrations into data so that you know for certain how your practice is being affected.
Just as you can tell that things are amiss, clients can tell when a practice is not functioning at peak performance. When employees and clients notice that the practice is not performing well, they leave which causes a loss of business that impairs the success of the practice.
Decision point: Is it worth it to you to lose your strong, well-performing employees because of not addressing one poorly performing employee?
Rather than subsidizing mediocrity and poor results, apply your leadership skills. Have difficult discussions. Mentor for improved performance. Reestablish the requirements and expectations of the position. Hold the employee accountable for achieving the standards of work and service delivery. In the event that your efforts do not lead to improved employee contributions, it’s time to make a change. Whether you allow an employee to leave, or let the person go, the remaining solution is to remove the poorly performing employee from your team.
Having a business that gives you everything you want including a great team may be closer than you think. Take the PT Practice Quiz and discover what you can do to get to the next level!