When an employee behaves badly - beyond a single bad-hair day - management will too often congregate and seize upon an impending employee review to reverse a counterproductive trend. The review will start off with a note of praise, "Employee is absolutely amazing in his ability to show up to work on time once per financial quarter." Then they`ll drop in the subtle hint that will cause productivity to skyrocket once again: "Needs to stop slamming phone down every time a patient has an excuse to avoid a recall appointment."
The truly amazing thing about criticizing an employee`s undesirable habits is the polls. Poll after poll in business publications indicate that the American workforce covets job security in an era noted for instability. A few of us perhaps would love to have security as well as wholly undemanding managers. Since such scenarios are a rarity, we should focus on reality. If the work force is so interested in hanging around for the long haul, why do we dance around offering suggestions that improve job performance? As long as moral ethics are not breached, employees appear to be in a prime position for delivering quality work in exchange for long-term employment benefits.
The truly sobering thing about criticizing an employee`s undesirable habits is workplace violence. The news outlets are full of accounts of people perfecting pipe bombs. Not all of them are social outcasts. We recently had a local guy mistakenly blow himself up. The evidence collected by police indicated that he was practicing to blow up his former employer - employer, as in place of business and not a single individual. Scary, huh? While I was watching this on the news, I kept wondering about what was going through the minds of the other non-management employees who had absolutely nothing to do with this ill will. Sick minds are out there. But, to spread the blame around, corporate downsizing and just plain-bad management practices have also made an ugly contribution to this mood of violent retribution.
We have to keep returning to the promise, though, of a genuine desire on the part of management and employees to deliver good services. We have to keep thinking that we can steer around the threat of litigation and workplace violence. We know in our hearts that we can accomplish this without injuring feelings. In this issue (page 34), Kent Davies takes a close look at constructively criticizing the dental assistant or front office employee. They, for the most part, lack the intense professional training the hygienist and dentist receive. As Davies points out in the beginning of his article, dental professionals are experts at gently criticizing patients. This ability, though, apparently does not carry over to other staff members.
The goal is to increase productivity without causing rampant turnover among embittered employees. A first step is to not be coy about it by waiting for the annual performance review. Patients, after all, would argue that good services shouldn`t have to wait until the employee`s anniversary. A healthy dose of diplomacy, as Davies outlines, will go a long way in helping out staff members who behave badly.