The Employee Review Conundrum

  • by Donald Murry III, DMD, DMD
  • Jan 24, 2017, 15:13 PM
The blessing and curse of my group practice setting is having to relay/discuss/vote on decisions amongst my partners. At times, it’s a godsend — aka, those times when I have few if any ideas and I thusly appreciate the variety and breadth of opinions amongst my counterparts. Other times, though, it leads to disagreements and some heated discussions when opinions differ. 

One of the more recent discussions I can recall was around the idea of employee reviews. We’re a growing, multi-location practice with more than just a handful of employees now. Multiple doctors rotate locations on a daily basis. Although I’ve grown into having the confidence to be able to discuss a situation with a staff member in the moment, there are plenty of times in the midst of one of those days when I barely have time to check my email — not to mention discuss with my assistant the proper protocol for room restocking or CAD/CAM mill maintenance. It’s tough, and I’ll be the first to admit it. 

I clearly recall a conversation with one of my assistants years ago about their previous boss who kept a Post-it® Note stack in his pocket on which he’d write down his employee’s issues, as well as potential teaching moments and growth opportunities. Although doing this would be tempting, I don’t care to be known as that boss. So sometimes, while it’s fresh in my brain, I calmly (err … not all the time) present growth opportunities to teammates. But often, instead, I’m on to the next thing — a DOL onlay prep, for example — and poof, there goes the idea to seize a teaching moment. 

So what’s the solution? I’ve spent the past few weeks working on our operations manual, an organizational flowchart, etc. — the things any midsize or large corporation has to have in order to function effectively and efficiently. In section four of my ops manual is the page that covers employee reviews. We’ve never had ’em. Well, we did, and two team members quit.

So lies our conundrum. As owners, practitioners, Type Aers or simply just plain humans, we tend to focus our energy on the negative. Why?! This is just common nature, but it also is a poor quality to have, at best. Even when it comes to my best assistants, patient care coordinators or associates, I could list 20 things I wish they did better without any prep time. I’d honestly have to give thought to come up with the 20 things they do great — which is so unfortunate, because in piecing together the ops manual, they each did 200 things well! But for some reason, the growth opportunities that cross my mind on occasion are the ones that stick, the ones that I remember come review time. 

So I am hesitant to begin the practice of scheduling such reviews, for fear of having the negatives outweigh the positives. I’m worried that scheduled reviews would simply turn into counseling sessions during which my teammates would “lay it all out there” — their disdain for another employee, for example. I would be careful not to anger the good/great employees with the little tweaks that would make sense in my head to outline at the time, but inevitably, I probably would just come off as nitpicky. The objective would be to be completely honest, so that my employees would actually grow and improve from them. Worst-case scenario, we would track legitimate data/records for the rare times when we would need to consult the human resources company to formulate a notice of unemployment form.

So, yes, there is clearly valuable information to be gained from reviews, but also hesitation and unease surrounding them. So how do you all handle reviews? Are they a regular (annual, biannual, quarterly) part of your practice? Do you have a magic method for focusing your energy on the positives? I’m interested to hear your thoughts. 

I’d like to keep the reviews topic in my ops manual, and I’d like to eventually use scheduled review time as growth opportunities for my staff, but maybe more so for myself. I have to be a good leader, too, just as much as my employees must meet expectations, and part of that is actually leading: teaching, consulting, convening, instructing and communicating. It’s part of my job description.
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