It is always a difficult decision to let someone go, especially in today’s market where team members are hard to come by. My first choice is to always focus on training a team member to the best of their potential or perhaps even refocusing them to tasks that are better suited to their skill level. Sometimes though, your only decision is to let someone go. If you get to this point the team member might feel surprised or shocked by the decision. However, in most cases, the individual should not be surprised by the dismissal. Here are some reasons why:
- If a team member has been struggling to meet their job responsibilities and isn’t meeting the performance expectations you have set, then you have the right to dismiss them. First though, you need to be sure that you have provided sufficient feedback via Performance Improvement Plans with supportive training in the areas that are lacking. The team member must be given opportunities to improve their performance with timelines attached as well. After three attempts of feedback if there isn’t marked improvement it could lead to dismissal and the team member needs to be aware as they are getting close. This is never a comfortable process but avoiding it will be troublesome in the long run.
- Dismissal could happen if you have a team member who has any type of personal misconduct. Depending on the type of misconduct this could be immediate dismissal and shouldn’t be a surprise either. Examples of behaviour that would be immediate dismissal would be fraud, being intoxicated or under the influence of non-prescription drugs and possibly discrimination or harassment depending on the nature of their actions. Poor behaviour can damage the reputation of the practice or create an uncomfortable work environment for other team members.
- If you have a policy in place or a clause in employment contracts stating that team members are not to solicit patients or contact them after hours for any “side businesses” that they are involved in. This would be any tiered marketing programs or home-based businesses. Doing this once is likely cause for a formal warning, if this continues the team member needs to realize that this may lead to dismissal as a conflict of interest and possibly breaking confidentiality of office information.
- It is very rare in dental offices for there to be a problem with too many team members in the practice. If you find yourself in that situation before you lay someone off, use some creativity to keep them in the practice, if they are an asset until you need them again. Good team members that are well trained are costly to replace, they may not be doing what you intended them to be doing but there is always somewhere in the office that needs extra support.
The cost of replacing a team member is between $8000 and $10,000 when you consider any production that is slowed down during the learning process, any severance that is paid and paying another team member to be training a new person until they can be on their own. If you were considering a purchase of this amount, you would be sure that you had prepared well in advance to be sure that you weren’t making a wasted purchase.
While a team member may feel surprised or shocked by the actual dismissal, they should know that the reason is justified as there have been other actions taken already to improve the situation. Practice owners have the right to dismiss team members for a variety of reasons, it is important that the office policies and procedures are properly put in place and applied so that everyone understands the expectations and strives to meet them to maintain their job security.