What do you do when a staff member complains about another co-worker?  Imagine this situation: “Staff Member A” complains that “Staff Member B” is not doing her part, and that as a result, “S.M. A” is now doing more work.  In addition, she complains that “S.M. B” is one of your favorites and that you do not reprimand her properly when she doesn’t follow the office’s policies and protocols.

Do you fly off the handle at these accusations?  Well, if you do, it is definitely the wrong way to deal with this problem. Here are some tips on how to handle a disgruntled employee.

  1. Listen with intent.  Make sure you are 100 percent present during your conversation.  If an employee comes to you at a bad time, such as while you are seeing patients, inform her that you are interested in what she has to say and that you would like to sit down with her at an appropriate time to give her your undivided attention.  Then immediately set this time up.
  2. Take notes.  During the conversation, have a pad and paper and write down the staff member’s complaints.  This shows that you are paying attention, as well as serves as documentation of the conversation. In addition, it allows you to think before your speak and note your thoughts so you do not have to interrupt the staff member.
  3. Do not get defensive.  You should not feel you have to defend yourself. Tell the staff member you understand her issue, and that you agree everyone has to do their part in order for the practice to be successful. 
  4. Agree on something. Put yourself in the staff member’s shoes.  Understand their point of view.  After you agree on something, you can have a peaceful discussion and come to a resolution of the problem.
  5. Thank the staff member. Thank her for feeling comfortable enough to bring up the situation.  Tell her you are truly glad she did.  You would rather she communicates than just quits one day.
  6. Apologize.  Yes, apologize.  No, you do not have to apologize for something you did or didn’t do.  You should say you’re sorry that the staff member feels this way and that your goal is to do your best to provide a great working environment.
  7. Satisfy the situation. Now, it is time to try to satisfy the staff member.  Tell her that you will be more attentive to the situation.  Let her know you will take care of it immediately without throwing her under the bus.  Make sure she understands that you will handle the problem in a delicate manner so the other staff member will not be upset with her.
  8. Follow-up.  Let the staff member who filed the complaint know that you spoke with the other employee.  After a few days, ask the staff member how things are going and if the situation has improved.

Do not take any staff member’s complaints lightly.  If you want to maintain harmony and show your staff that you care, you need to make yourself available.  Even if you have a staff manager, your employees know you are the owner. They need to know you care.  So while you might not need to do the dirty work, you still need to discuss the situation with the office manager to make sure situation is handled appropriately.  In addition, as the owner, you definitely need to follow-up personally with the staff members.

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