At any given time one or more of your staff are likely doing something that you would not be too happy about if discovered.
It's the nature of the beast. That's why it is so important to have written policy and a formal protocol for correcting or reprimanding employees.
You want to document bad behavior or policy violations for all employees. Doing so will hopefully get the employee corrected as well as provide documentation to help fight unemployment claims if you decide to dismiss them.
When staff do not follow policy there is a tendency to either ignore it or get mad and tell them "my way or the highway". Neither is a "best practice". The real problem is most practice owners do not know how to properly correct employees and so end up losing what could be good employees or keeping staff who should really be dismissed.
When correcting staff the key is to find out if there is some aspect of the policy or protocol they do not agree with or do not understand. They may even have a valid point. You can learn a lot by listening.
So do not assume they are bad or wrong. Roll up your sleeves to find out what they do not understand or what they disagree with and then sort that out.
All that being said, if you have an employee that you need to correct on the same policy more than three times or in general does not follow policy, then you have an employee who cannot or will not follow policy and they should be dismissed.
The following is my recommended protocol:
Talk to the employee (Step 1)
Get their side of the story. For some offenses it could be one strike and you're out (see below) on the other hand always weigh an employee's value versus non optimum behavior. In general discipline should be done on a gradient.
Warning (Step 2)
The first time a relatively minor infraction occurs clarify the rule(s) involved. Explain what is expected in such circumstances. Generally, this type of reminder is sufficient and for most situations further action is not necessary.
Reprimand (Step 3)
For problems requiring additional action after a warning prepare a written reprimand which reviews the facts of the situation, cites specific improvement that are to be demonstrated by the employee within a clearly defined period of time and state the disciplinary action that will result if the improvement does not occur within the time designated. This written reprimand is to be signed by both the practice owner (or office manager) and the employee after they have discussed the contents. Place in the employee's personnel file.
Penalties (Step 4)
After a reprimand, depending on the severity of the offense, if there is insufficient improvement within the stated time, disciplinary action such as suspension without pay, demotion or dismissal may result.
Note: Always make sure any such steps are legal for your state.
It is important to note that the severity of the offense may warrant not following the usual sequence of warning-reprimand-penalty so the disciplinary action taken may begin at any level.
A reprimand, for example, could be given for a flagrant first offense and immediate dismissal could result without prior warning or suspension in the case of major acts of misconduct or serious dereliction of duty.
Quality Control Form
Make sure to have a “Quality Control” form to fill out. If you don’t have such a form me up by email. I’ll get one emailed to you right away.
Kevin Tighe, Cambridge Dental Consultants, Senior Consultant, got bitten hard by the business and marketing bug during long summer days working at his dad's Madison Avenue ad agency. After joining Cambridge as a speaker in the mid-1990s, Kevin went on to become Cambridge’s senior consultant and eventually CEO. Cambridge Dental Consultants is a full-service dental practice management company offering customized dental office manuals. Frustrated? High overhead? Schedule a chat with Kevin at