Help! My team is falling apart

November 17, 2016

Ever feel like you were on a sinking ship? Sometimes you want to be the one to jump off!

Ever feel like you were on a sinking ship? Sometimes you want to be the one to jump off!

That is the feeling I get when a member of my team announces her resignation.

Immediately following is the dreaded two-week notice. Two weeks, to replace a valued team member! Two weeks, whoever came up with the notion that it is possible to replace someone in two weeks is…crazy! This becomes both the longest two weeks and the shortest two weeks of my professional life.

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Of course, I’m happy for my departing team member to begin a new endeavor. I know it is important that each person strive for individual happiness, but deep down inside I dread the potential ripple effect.

I wonder why one person makes the decision to jump ship does it seem like another person decides it is time to go as well? If an employee decides the time is right to depart, does she conspire with others to abandon me and leave me to run a busy practice alone?

I want to chase after them and say, “Wait, it’s not so bad! Come back!” or “Don’t leave us, we can change anything to keep you!” Nevertheless, I organize a farewell dinner, smile, wish them good luck, and say good-bye.

 

Look at opportunities

Of course there is a reason for the exit. It may be personal or the logistics of child or parental care; matters we cannot control. However, if the departure is due to an internal problem, a clash between other employees, or a dispute with office policy, we need to fix the problem now before another team member decides to leave.

Losing a team member is difficult; however, losing multiple team members can be devastating to a busy practice.

Immediately after we receive the news that someone is leaving, we quickly inform the entire team. The loss must be discussed because inevitably team members are aware that a change is about to transpire.

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The size of the practice or number of team members never alters the amount of chatter that goes on-every team member will know almost every detail usually within an hour of the resignation. They are acutely aware that any reduction in work force will create additional responsibilities, and that means more work for all. It then becomes a delicate balance between keeping the team happy and stable while we maintain the same excellent care that our patients have become accustomed to.

Remember that losing a team member is not always a bad thing for a busy practice. An open position allows for an opportunity to promote from within the team. Promotions will add encouragement, which is beneficial when our practice is faced with this employment challenge. Individual team members also have the chance to voice their own opinions and participate in open communication, which allows us to understand potential problems or concerns and possibly prevent further exits.

 

Starting the hiring process

It is obvious hiring decisions must be made.

What type of person are we looking for? Experienced? An experienced person would save training time; if we hire someone with prior knowledge they could possibly jump right in and alleviate some of the work overload tension felt by the team.

Although, finding a team member with prior experience is a daunting task, it may have its own obstacles. For instance, that individual may come with preconceived ideas about how we complete daily tasks, which may not be in our team’s best interest.

We may consider someone who has recently obtained or is working on his degree. Technical schools are full of students who want to work.

Wait, maybe it would be beneficial for us to choose the person with no prior experience, allowing us to train this person, mold her to the individual position without previous experience or an educational bias.

Related: How to create a happy patient

Replacing a team member will take time, and I know the weeks ahead will be grueling, pouring over countless resumes, conducting interviews, and trying to fill holes in our schedule without working the remaining team members to death. We need to move fast because an understaffed team will add stress and may exacerbate the ripple effect, possibly leading to further team member exits.

Finding the perfect person is beyond challenging. It has been helpful to encourage likely candidates to spend a day with us. When we ask a prospective new hire to come to our practice for one day, it has two purposes. It will give this individual a feel for the business office and an idea of our team’s collective personality.

In addition, our team to gets to know the candidate’s personality and skills and becomes involved in the hiring process. Each team member then has insight into her own work environment and what is needed from a prospective new hire.

Though the decision is ours, it is important to listen and trust our team’s opinion.

 

Changing the team dynamic

When the new team member begins his adventure with us, it is a precarious time for development of team interaction, and it is imperative that the latest team member meshes with seasoned team members. If the new person does not fit, there is potential to change the personality of the office. One wrong person can shake a practice to its core, forever changing the working relationships we have established with one another.

A good hire fits in and adds continuity to our practice. She encourages comfort with every team member and brings a personality that is agreeable and will work well with everyone.

Now let the training begin!

Read more from Dr. Haegemeyer here