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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Babb, CVPM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, RVT

A Great Employee, But...

She’s always late…

He refuses to help train new staff…

She doesn’t get along with her coworkers…

He creates drama...

Hardly a day goes by in HR without some variation of this sentence cropping up. It’s often during a discussion with a manager or practice owner who is experiencing performance issues with a staff member, and is seeking guidance on how to respond.

As a practice manager, I’ve uttered this sentence myself, many times. And, I’ve been guilty of turning a blind eye to these problems, because the hospital was already chronically understaffed, underskilled, and overworked. It’s easier to overlook seemingly minor infractions than to deal with them head on, especially when there is a fear of losing yet another employee.

It’s a difficult thing as a leader to address performance problems, and it’s especially challenging when the issue is something other than a skill deficiency. It’s really hard to call someone out when the hospital team is already under tremendous stress and pressure. There is always a reason to delay the hard conversation, to look the other way, and hope things sort themselves out.

In the end though, these issues negatively impact the rest of the team, and inhibit our ability to provide exceptional client service and patient care.

As practice leaders, our role is to help our people be the best they can be, to nurture them, and encourage them to grow into truly great employees. Great employees are on time. Great employees help their team learn. Great employees collaborate and treat others with respect. Great employees contribute to a positive work culture. We need to help our people get there, and elevate them to greatness. We do our team no favors by excusing poor performance.

Our staff looks to the hospital leadership team to set the tone, to gently correct, and to hold people accountable. If we, as leaders, tolerate poor performance, or ignore it, then we condone it, even encourage it. After all, why would an employee adjust what they are doing if it is considered acceptable?

We all need a little nudging from time to time. We all need to hear feedback, even if it is difficult. We need clarity in expectations. We all want the opportunity to do our best.

So, as a manager or practice owner, what is to be done about a “great employee” who has performance issues? How might we encourage them to become the truly great employee we believe them capable of being?

Talk with them. Give timely, specific feedback. Let your people know where they are falling short of the mark. Give them a chance to improve. Follow up. Give feedback. Document thoroughly (which is a subject unto itself).

Do you know if there is anything preventing them from achieving their best? Have you asked?

Have they been given the training, tools and resources to succeed?

Do they understand what is expected?

These are tough conversations. They require courage. If you need coaching, tap into your own resources for help. Approaching performance issues should be done with dignity, honesty and compassion. And when the conversation is handled well, people respond.

Truly great employees rise to the occasion. They welcome the feedback and the opportunity to improve. Great employees want to do their best, and your team is counting on you to hold them accountable for achieving greatness. Set the bar high, and then help them reach it by giving feedback, support, and encouragement.

Your team, your clients and your patients will thank you for it.

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