Survindar Chahal, content and customer experience manager at First Practice Management, explains the ten signs you need to keep an eye on to stop a mass exodus from your practice
As the practice manager you’ve always kept things in check but, lately, things haven’t been going so well. Patient demand has sky-rocketed, and tensions are at an all-time high, putting a significant strain on your employees. Now your well-oiled machine is going wild, and an unexpected rebellion is on the horizon. Would you know the warning signs? How you respond will have a direct impact on how well you, your teams, and your practice survive.
1: Careless whispers
You walk into a room – the conversations suddenly fade into whispers. As the whispers fade, the individuals involved flee to the break room, or off for a smoke, vowing never to tell their story again (at least not while you’re present). These whispers are usually filled with gloom, or fury directed at you, the partners, or the practice itself. You can bet a mutiny is in the works if these whispered tales of sorrow continue.
2: A black-tie affair
If your employees are used to dressing casually every day and then appear at work dressed in a suit you can be sure that snappily dressed employee is on their way to a job interview. This is extremely risky when it occurs and no-one else in the office notices. When employees remain mute about the suit-and-tie events, you can be sure they’re all aware of what’s going on. You’re probably dealing with a silent revolt at this point, and it may be too late for some of your employees.
3: “The cat’s not well…”
When the emergency leave and sick days start piling up (especially when several employees are involved) they may be approaching breaking point and will do what they can to avoid showing up. You know that, when sick days start piling up, it is the calm before the storm…
4: Incomplete work
When your team suddenly stops completing their tasks on a regular basis, it’s one of the most perilous times; these unfinished jobs not only pile up, they also produce additional work and stress for other employees. If you notice lots of jobs are incomplete (especially if this is a significant change in habit) you should assume that discontent is growing within the ranks.
5: Competency plummets
Related to number four – something is wrong if competency drops for no obvious reason. Either your employees have reached a stage where they just don’t care, or their hearts and minds are just not in it. This is a risky area in any case because it will have an immediate impact on how you are able to run the practice effectively.
6: Increasing tensions
Is it becoming increasingly difficult to communicate with your staff? Are employees starting to argue amongst themselves where they never did before? These debates might be fueled by internal factors – usually disgruntled employees. It’s a solid sign that something is about to boil over if one or a few employees are arguing more. The most difficult aspect of this situation is that you have very little chance of winning any of those arguments; before attempting to defuse anything, identify the source of the problem.
7: Social (media) awareness
Are staff spending more time on their ‘phones than usual? Is it possible that they’re spending that time on social media profiles that you’re not a part of? This is a dicey topic because you don’t want to intrude on their privacy, or look paranoid (which would only feed into their discontent). Their comments in groups, or on a public forum, will swiftly spread their discontent and could have far-reaching consequences for your practice reputation. You could, of course, prohibit social networking while at work, but this will not stop them from venting outside of work.
8: The body language
Furrowed brows, avoiding eye contact, short tempers…how your employees act reveals a lot about their state of mind. However, it’s not just about the way they look; it’s also about the words they use and how they use them. Are you hearing more profanity in the workplace? All of this points to a single core issue – dissatisfaction.
9: Steering clear
Are staff starting to avoid you? Do they go quiet or leave the room as you walk in? If it isn’t just you, are they also ignoring other senior figures in the practice? Some minor shirking is one thing but, when it’s a regular thing, then something is amiss. Let’s take this a step further – are they avoiding certain work or responsibilities, rules or some basic etiquette? Have you had any contact? Dodging like this should be taken seriously, especially when it occurs in large groups.
10: Timekeeping issues
Have your employees started arriving late? Is the list of incomplete tasks a reflection of their tardiness? Do they appear to be inventing new excuses for being late? If this is the case, it’s a safe bet that your employees no longer care about the job. If you can’t get the root of the issue, a mutiny is on the cards – deal with this laissez-faire attitude or it will lead to a serious drop in morale, especially among the few who still do care.
Take action – right now
Certain situations are unavoidable and, like it or not, there will always be at least one ‘disgruntled’ employee. When the few become the many, however, you’re looking at a potential practice-wide revolt that could cost you time, resources, effort – and possibly your sanity.
Take action as soon as you see the warning signs to get to the root of the problem.