Appreciate Practice Employees Without Giving Pay Raise

April 21, 2016

Cannot afford to give your employee a raise, but want to show them that you value their work? The Civility CEO is here to help.

Dear Sue,

I'm a seasoned GP with several decades of experience under my belt. I often feel challenged by the relaxed attitude and casual appearance of my younger colleagues, and I sense that some of them view me as old-fashioned and conservative. How can different generations work together without compromising their respective comfort zones?

Dated Doctor

Dear Dated Doctor,

It is entirely possible to work productively with peers of different ages. In fact, being able to do so is essential for your continued success. No matter what your age is, collaborating with people from multiple generations works best when these three elements blend together: trust, open-mindedness, and respect.

Trust: Young medical professionals bring fresh perspectives to a practice. In addition to their second-nature understanding of current technology and their boundless energy, they also have modern philosophies and are proficient with new procedures, all qualities that enable them to perform a variety of tasks with enhanced efficiency. For them to fit in with a group of multi-genarians, it's vital that their more mature colleagues trust them to do things their own way. This takes time, observation, and patience - from both sides.

Veteran physicians, on the other hand, offer young associates great wisdom as well as a level of medical intuition and expertise that can only be acquired from years of experience. Though they may seem set in their ways to junior staff, established doctors have advanced abilities as diagnosticians and inherent dexterity from decades of practice. Younger doctors will benefit by taking note of their medical elders' aptitudes and trusting their judgment.

Open-mindedness: Medical mores are in a constant state of flux. One example of this is the way healthcare professionals dress. While it used to be expected that physicians wear more formal clothing, like a suit, appearance policies have changed dramatically. Now it's not uncommon to see a doctor wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt, and sandals at work. Consistency matters, and in order for different styles to co-exist in the same practice, guidelines must be established and maintained. The best way to do this is by sitting down as a group and discussing the question, "How do we want to look around here?" Rather than a top-down directive, which may be met with pushback, agreeing on a standard of appearance that works for everyone is the most effective way to get compliance.

Respect: Mutual respect is critical in a medical practice. Wherever you land on the maturity, experience, and image spectrums, honoring where others are on their journey will help everyone thrive.

Age, as they say, is merely a number. Your traditional approach and years of know-how can easily be combined with a contemporary attitude, poising your practice for acceptance of colleagues with all levels of experience.

Dear Sue,

I'm still getting my practice off the ground, and I'm not in the financial position to offer salary raises or bonuses to my staff. What are some other ways I can demonstrate how much I value and appreciate their loyalty and professionalism?

Starting Out

Dear Starting Out,

It takes many years and plenty of support for new practitioners to get their medical businesses established, and it's natural to want to reward the people who stand behind them along the way.

Monetary incentives aren't the only way to share your gratitude for the people who assist you and your patients. Here are three other ways to express your thanks.

Listen: It's important for people to know that they're being heard at work. Pay attention to what your staff members are saying. If, for example, you learn that someone is excited about her upcoming birthday, plan a special celebration for her at the office. You could bring in a cake, have flowers delivered, or arrange for everyone to sign a card. If you don't have time to do this yourself, assign it to someone else. Simple, thoughtful actions like this show that you care about the people you work with.

Be flexible: Time can mean more than money. Some people's circumstances can make it difficult for them to follow a traditional work schedule. Perhaps someone on your staff is finding it challenging to get his kids off to school and be on time for work in the morning. Or, he may be caring for an elderly or ill family member and be willing to work late if it means leaving for an hour mid-day to check on his loved one. Working with him to make minor adjustments to your office routine could be a gift worth its weight in gold.

Write it down: Thank you notes needn't be saved for formal events or external recipients. Why not put pen to paper and share your gratitude with your staff in writing? A few simple lines of genuine appreciation in in a personalized, handwritten note can make someone's day. Mention a specific incident or a quality you value in that person, like her willingness to go above and beyond, and watch her spirits soar.

When the time is right you'll be able to provide staff with pay raises and other financial extras. Until then, you can gain their ongoing respect and loyalty by sharing your appreciation for all they do.

Sue Jacques, The Civility CEO®, is a veteran forensic medical investigator turned corporate civility consultant, keynote speaker, and author. Sue helps people and practices gain confidence, earn respect, and prosper through professionalism by creating courteous and confident corporate cultures. She can be reached at Info@TheCivilityCEO.com.

This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of Physicians Practice