Issues And Answers In Staff Management

Lynn Homisak, PRT

Managing staff members can add to the challenges that already exist in a busy podiatric practice. This author draws upon her experience to help resolve common issues such as conflicts over staff responsibilities and salary issues.

   Managing staff can be challenging. There is no doubt about it. Well, there are various reasons why it can be challenging but there are a couple of common factors when it comes to staff issues.

   First, doctors were never really trained to be managers. Without the necessary management training concepts and tools, DPMs may have difficulty facing the variety of potential stressful situations that can (and do) arise on a daily, sometimes minute-to-minute basis. As a result, doctors may avoid things. Doing so only exacerbates the situation and the associated stress.

   Second, for any one problematic circumstance that can arise, there can be several viable solutions. The prize goes to the individual who has the time, energy, patience and knowledge to find which solutions work and which ones do not. Again, because this position is many times by default filled by the doctor whose time is extremely limited, we can usually expect more stress.

   Third, staff members are a widely diverse group of individuals. They have different values, personalities, needs, genders, expectations, goals, motivations, opinions, attitudes, backgrounds, skills, etc. Staff members are successfully and unsuccessfully thrown together to work in close quarters every day, five days a week, and expected to produce on equal levels and without causing any additional stress.

   Since there is a possibility you may have encountered similar situations, I thought it best to address some common scenarios I have encountered.

When Resentment Over Duties Leads To A Staff Infection

   I spoke to one person who noticed that staff members are more and more intolerant of each other. There is constant friction between the front and back office, work is slipping, patients are noticing and the doctor is pulling her hair out. The doctor has no office manager and no time to deal with this. How can the doctor put this team back together and move on?

   Conflict between front and back office workers is a common dilemma and the uncooperative behavior can lead to various repercussions. Experience tells me there is a lack of awareness between these two groups that has never been addressed. That is where I would focus my initial attention.

   All too often I have seen what happens and how this conflict develops. The front desk, for example, has instructions to schedule patients every 10 minutes. However, because 10 minutes is not always a proper amount of time, the back office cannot efficiently handle the patient flow. Instead of communicating with their front office colleagues to question the scheduling logic or, better yet, help them understand that not every patient takes 10 minutes, the knee-jerk reaction from the back office staff is to criticize their actions.

   The front office staff take it personally and the next thing you know, things get out of hand. Cliques start developing. Rather than co-workers finding a solution, an all-out battle ensues based on nothing more than accusations, limited evidence and the emotional tension of whose job is more important or who’s right and who’s wrong. Clearly, each side feels it has a legitimate point. Without someone to take control of the situation, little happens to diffuse the anger and everyone around them, including the doctor and patients, suffer.

   If you see this “we work harder than they do” attitude develop, it is probably because people are only seeing things from their own perspective. My solution is to try letting them step into the other person’s shoes and experience for themselves the reality of the “other side.”

   I visited an office once that had unexpectedly lost two clinical staff. Purely out of necessity, the front receptionist stepped into an unfamiliar role to fill the void temporarily. She did so willingly, thinking this would be “a piece of cake.”

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