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Can't Trust My Front Desk

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Dear Sharyn,

My front desk coordinator has been at this practice longer than I have and knows all our patients.  She has been really helpful and I trust her but there are some things she does that frustrate me. But I might be over-reacting. For example, I will tell her do something like pre-block our team meetings only to find that she schedules patients into those times. And she seems to be on her cell phone or chatting with patients when she has a lot of work to do. We have cameras in the office and sometimes I check in to see what she’s doing when I’m not in the office. I’ve discovered that she has gone grocery shopping while on the clock and has long personal calls.  I confronted her and she apologized but she seems easily distracted.

A.D. California

Dear A.D.

You don’t need to question whether you are over-reacting. If it were me, I’d be pissed! A pervasive theme among your complaints is that you can’t really trust her. She doesn’t do what you ask and she does personal tasks while she is on the clock. This is actually wage theft.

So, what can you do? Use the CPR method of giving feedback as described in the book Crucial Accountability (2013, VitalSmarts, LLC)

  1. The first time something happens, you talk about the CONTENT of what happened. “I’ve noticed that you’ve haven’t reserved our team meetings. Scheduling patients into those reserved times, prevents us from having conversations that will improve our practice.
  2. If the behavior reoccurs, then talk about the PATTERN. “I’m noticing a pattern in your performance. When I ask you to do something, it isn’t being done consistently. What do you believe is getting in the way of being consistent?” 
  3. Then if the behavior still doesn’t change, share how this is affecting your RELATIONSHIP with the employee. “This situation is putting a strain on our practice. The pattern of breaking your agreements with me has affected my level of trust with you. This is not the relationship I want to have with you.”

It is this issue of trust that needs to be confronted. My personal style is to be direct.

 “I’ve observed that you do personal tasks while you’re on the clock. When I see that you leave the office to do personal errands, that erodes my trust in you. Your focus needs to be on prioritizing the needs of the practice. What can I expect you to do to change this situation?”

Then, I strongly suggest you document your conversation and give a copy of that documentation to the employee.

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“As an Office Manager, I’ve seen a great difference in my practice since starting with Sharyn. Three years ago our staff was in turmoil with a lot of infighting and gossip and some jealousy directed towards me.

I had given up because everything I did was judged. Now I have learned to have more one-to-one communication and by being more vulnerable with individuals I found my leadership voice. As a team, we’re all focused on the same goals.

Last year, in August we produced $88,000. This year we’re on track to produce $111,000 this month. I know it’s because we learned how to follow through with patients and communicate our expectations while building our systems.

Sharyn has gotten us out of our comfort zone and inspired us to dream bigger and it works.”

–Sharon St Pierre, Sperbeck Dental Care

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