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    Don't put off dealing with problem employees

    Q: We have a good staff at our practice, with a few exceptions. We're already running lean staff-wise, so I'd like to avoid firing these individuals if I can. What else can we do to remedy the situation?

    A: Every practice has its share of great, good, and problem employees. Whether the issue is as simple as a worker not doing his or her job properly or as serious as theft of cash, medical supplies, or equipment, any problem must be dealt with immediately. Too often, practice managers wait too long to face the issue, or worse, don't deal with it at all.

    Start by defining the problem in objective terms and assessing the situation. Clearly articulate a correction action plan to the problem employee. Then document the process as it proceeds. Consider taking five disciplinary steps—verbal counseling, written warning, optional second written warning, suspension, and termination.

    Make sure these steps are outlined in your employee manual in a section that describes disciplinary action. Be sure to highlight expectations that contribute to good employee behavior, such as start and end times, breaks, patient privacy, theft policies, and more. Clearly spell out the rules and the penalties for not following them.

    Ignoring your staff problems won't solve them. Neither will addressing the staff in a group setting with broad generalizations about the issue(s) of concern. You must deal directly with the employee in question and work to change his or her behavior or consider termination.

    Answers to our readers' questions were provided by Thomas J. Ferkovic, RPh, MS, managing director, SS&G Healthcare Services LLC.

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