On Letting Go: The Firing Process
As baseball season winds to a close, a handful of elite teams have distinguished themselves by clinching post-season berths. Among other things, they have managed to sustain, over the course of a long season, that important balance where everyone, players and coaching staff alike, understands their roles. They complement each other, both on the field, and off. This has assured them a shot at the ultimate goal of winning on the grandest stage of their profession.
Every physician’s office has its own culture, and set of ethics. Each one will employ staff with a variety of temperaments, and skill-sets. Like highly touted prospects, some will deliver, others will not. Some will assimilate into the broader culture of the practice, and some will alienate themselves from it (nowhere on the hiring sheet is there a box for “plays well with others”). You thought you assembled the best practice staff possible. You employed a rigorous hiring process to bring on the best talent, but it’s obvious that one or two aren’t working out. Here are some things to keep in mind when faced with staff firings.
To be (present)
Many physicians, probably most, stay as far away from the termination process as possible. Doctors usually lack the HR training and finesse necessary for this kind of situation anyway. But there are upsides to being present at the firing of an employee. As the leader of your practice, your presence can highlight for this particular staff member how serious their actions were, or maybe how difficult the decision was to fire them in the first place. A head physician’s presence also adds a sense of finality to the decision. No appeal. No second meeting. This is it. You are effectively the period at the end of “You’re fired.”
Physicians can also view attending a staff termination meeting as a learning experience. We’ve said countless times on this blog that your practice is a business, and this is just one other aspect of that business. Remember, you are not expected to perform this duty regularly. Actually, you won’t be performing anything at all, necessarily. Your administrator, or office manager will be doing the talking, handling the finer points of HR management. Your presence enforces their authority, strengthens your resolve and panache in dealing difficult news to someone, and extends a level of respect to the employee.
…or not to be
There is no law stating that a physician be present during the dismissal of a staff member. Depending on the size and scope of your practice, it may make more sense to leave the unfortunate task to your office manager and an administrator. But whether you choose to be in the room or not, as the leader of your practice, it is up to you to enforce certain guidelines for this situation, especially the kind of language used.
The meeting should be as professional as possible. Defensive tactics should be avoided. Your staff member did not perform their duties adequately, or violated some level of trust. They became a liability. That is that. They may ask for a detailed description of why they are losing their job. You can do this if you choose. However, neither you, nor your office manager should feel the need to validate the decision, or assuage your feelings of guilt by bringing it up. This can quickly degenerate into the “blame game”, and will only lead to hostility.
There is a fine line to walk here. You want to treat this person with the respect they deserve, while executing the will of your practice. Unless it becomes necessary, avoid escorting them off the property. Let them gather their effects, and leave without incident. This ensures that, while their pride and confidence may be shaken, their dignity remains intact.
Don’t do it
No, we are not suggesting you ignore legitimate business reasons for firing a bad employee out of sympathy, or even fear. But you can avoid the slings and arrows of termination if you more acutely examine your current rubric for hiring. Hire small; fire small.
What is it that your practice really needs? Expectations and job responsibilities should be outlined clearly and concisely, and new hires be given the benefit of an orientation. There are measures you can take to ensure that employees don’t fall through the cracks. Be accessible. Encourage feedback. When and where possible, create opportunities for their professional growth.
| HCRC Staffing | Brian@hcrcstaffing.com | www.hcrcstaffing.com
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