3 Best Practices for Improving Employee Relationships

There’s one thing that affects your practice’s success the most, and it has nothing to do with marketing, referrals, or even patient satisfaction. 

Rather, it’s the effectiveness of your internal culture. 

It would be foolish to assume that putting five to fifteen people together in an office would never result in any type of conflict. And when there’s conflict, the patient experience ultimately suffers. 

Practice owners must understand how to mitigate their effects quickly to avoid any delays in your achievements. 

Take a look at our three best practices for improving employee relations to maintain a professional, productive environment:

#1 - Understand Time Spent vs Time Wasted

Doctors have a lot of knowledge, but very little time to share it. When you do take time to train or work with your staff, you view it as an investment. 

And, as a general rule, you expect an ROI on that investment. 

But this investment becomes a waste of time if you’re spending it negotiating with employees about schedules or issues, mediating between employees who don’t work well together, or reminding employees to check their personal baggage at the door. You aren’t in business to give them a paycheck; rather, they’re here to serve you and your patients, and their perspective should reflect this, too. Your time shouldn’t be invested in complaints or debates. If this is the case, your staff isn’t doing enough to serve your patients.

And when this happens, are you and your staff really earning the success you want? 

Prior to any meeting you participate in, set boundaries and provide a clear agenda focused on the value behind it.  This will help ensure the time spent is worth not only your time, but also provide value to the team about what’s to come. This will also help solidify your importance of attending because you know going in what to discuss and more importantly what not to discuss.

#2 - Focus on Cultural Fit and Holding Each Person Accountable

Practice owners know they can’t do it all, which is why they hire front office people, assistants, dental hygienists and other personnel to help them. But even one bad hire can be enough to turn your practice on its head. 

When you allow a bad apple to continue to not comply with practice standards, there’s a huge impact that most providers don’t see. It’s impossible to isolate one bad team member from the rest since you operate as a team. Good team members aren’t interested in staying on board a sinking ship and may eventually leave. Or worse, they might stay but are less motivated to put forth the same amount of effort.

Patients can pick up on negativity in the workplace, which means providers should do everything possible to eliminate it. Even more importantly than that, why would any team want to live in a negative environment day in and day out? Eventually, it will wear on everyone.

For example, if a staff member is having a bad day, acknowledge the fact that maybe they need time to recuperate. Obviously, too many unpaid days add up, forcing the problem to take care of itself, either by correcting behavior or eliminating the employee from your payroll. 

However you decide to handle negativity, it’s important you don’t just tolerate it. Your team knows you need their help and will use it to their advantage. Star performers will see your patterns in the way you handle things, and if your approach is weak this will change their approach and relationship with you.

In many cases, we put up with issues because we’re busy and don’t have time to correct the root problem, especially when you lean on top performers and burden them with your lack of discipline. This creates a wildfire-like effect that will continue to produce problems for you - and your patients.

This is how culture is developed and setting clear expectations and holding each person accountable will cultivate respect. As a result, you will deliver the best experience to your patients.

#3 - Take Control of Weaknesses

It’s easy to believe you have great team and issues never happen. But in reality, some issues are just harder to spot than others.

No one will admit they’re the problem, so how exactly can you identify complications?

Usually, the bad apple is somewhat of an idealist and their expectations aren’t being met somewhere. They truly believe they are doing the world a favor. They often present themselves as “the most positive person” and somehow everyone else around them is the culprit. Typically, they see themselves as leaders. This is the kind of person no one wants to be around. It can turn a hardworking person into one that’s bitter or rigid if allowed to continue behaving in this manner of superiority.

Everyone has a bottom line, and so should the Periodontist who is leading the team. When idealists who have become bitter and then go head to head with the boss, it’s imperative that they are not allowed to pressure or push negative agendas. Otherwise, you’re simply just not leading.

One approach to keeping these issues under control is to get their buy-in for improving the morale of the office. Honesty and confrontation of the problem at this point is vital. Ask them if they want to contribute (the obvious answer is yes), then hold them accountable. If they cannot agree to simple, respectful agreements, then it’s clear they’ve chosen not to be a part of your team.

It All Comes Back to the Patient Experience

One of the most important things you can do for your practice is to help staff realize their impact on others around them and the patient experience. Your staff is the first line of defense and sets the tone of the entire office. If patients walk into disorganization, miscommunication, and tension, it WILL affect their confidence in the doctor providing treatment. Even a single eye-roll can blow the cover on the entire operation.

The truth is your team is important, and they are a highly valuable part of the entire process. They need to understand that and consistently be reminded about not only their value but how much power they really have. It's up to them to make or break your success. Show them how their behaviors and actions can impact office dynamics, especially when personal problems or desires are prioritized over the patients. Creating a positive patient experience should remain a top priority every day, so work with your team to reveal what that looks like. Remind them how they are in charge of their own destiny and give them a path to help them stay successful.

For more insights on improving your Periodontal practice, head back to the PANDA blog.

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