An Elephant in the Room: How to Manage Poor Performing Medical Office Staff

Posted by Practice Management Institute on Sep 29, 2021 2:25:32 PM
Practice Management Institute

If you dread conducting employee performance reviews, you're not alone. But perception is everything; a performance evaluation does not have to be confrontational. it can be an uplifting and productive opportunity to connect with your team members. Reviews are a good time to formally recognize your team members for going above and beyond. It is also a confidential space to address problems head-on and provide a pathway for improvement. What you say, and how you say it must be carefully considered during a review to avoid a negative result.

Medical office managers wear many hats on any given day. One minute you're a mentor, the next you're a decision-maker, authoritarian, grievance counselor, cheerleader, and the list goes on. When it comes to staffing decisions you have to make tough calls like whether to continue to invest time and energy in a team member with recurring performance issues. Unfortunately, these problems rarely work themselves out. Making time to counsel a team member with performance problems is a good first step toward corrective action.

Tips for Addressing Performance Issues

1. Set the right environment. Addressing a negative topic is a delicate dance. Reduce tensions and anxiety by choosing the right situation, ample time, and a private place to have a frank conversation. Minimize distractions as much as possible to focus on the employee and the issue at hand.

2. Establish why a performance review is important for both sides of the table. Start by doing your best to minimize the emotional impact. Remove negative energy from the room with a deep breath, a smile, and a brief ice-breaker to help ease any tension. Establish why this time together talking about performance is essential for employee growth and the medical practice's success. Let the person know that your discussion is confidential, and they are a valuable member of the team. Then give a quick overview of what you will discuss, so there are no surprises.

3. Start with the positives. What is the employee doing well? How are they contributing to the success of the practice? Be fully present to state your case, remembering to always focus on a resolution of the issue(s) rather than the person. No one wants to hear what they're doing wrong off the bat. Highlight the employee's strengths, skills, and accomplishments first, before getting into performance issues. This can make a big difference in how criticism is received.

4. Describe any performance problems. Be direct and clear about the problems happening and how they impact the employee, the team, practice, and patients. Review and reinforce performance standards and how the employee's behaviors and/or actions are not measuring up. Make sure you have resources at hand such as the employee's HR file with job description, and an employee handbook handy to back up your statements.

5. Develop a plan for improvement. You should map out a path for performance improvement ahead of time. Be direct and let them know what is and is not negotiable. Make sure they understand the guidelines and set up a follow-up meeting to discuss progress and feedback. 

6. Offer your help and encouragement. You may have to juggle your tone a bit between authoritarian and mentor, depending on the situation. In both cases, your objective is to correct the problem, not attack the person. Always provide encouragement and let them know they are a valuable contributor, capable of turning around their performance. Offering training opportunities can be extremely valuable. It shows that you are invested in their improvement and want to help them reach the goal. 

7. Plan for a follow-up meeting. A follow-up meeting is the best setting to address progress and address any challenges the employee is facing. This may be a good time to praise their improvement or offer additional guidance, as needed. Your employees want to feel supported and will appreciate your advice.

Learn More Effective Strategies for Practice Staff Management with CMOM Training

Employee reviews can be challenging, especially when addressing poor performance, staff conflict, or disciplinary actions.  The Certified Medical Office Manager course will guide you with important legal obligations and management considerations when addressing performance or other employment issues. View CMOM details here.

Join PMI CMOM Instructor Linda D'Spain on October 20th for a free walk-through of CMOM certification curriculum and how you can become a more effective medical office leader. 

Learn More & Register

Topics: medical office manager topics, cmom certification, medical practice issues, medical office staff, medical office leadership

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