Handling Staff Complaints About Medical Practice Co-workers

March 2, 2013

Handling employee complaints can be tricky. Here are some ideas on approaching them and resolving them quickly and effectively at your practice.

It happens to even the best running businesses. You hear a "tap-tap-tap" on your door followed by "Can I speak with you for a moment?" One of your staff members has a complaint about a co-worker. Before you react or respond, consider these thoughts, they may save you a HR mess in the end.

• Consider the source. First and foremost, who is coming to you with the complaint? Like it or not, many people have personal agendas in business, and will do anything to get ahead. Does this employee often complain about other staff members and are the complaints usually unwarranted? The flip side of this, is the employee trying to look out for your business' best interest? Oftentimes, you will have one star employee who hears and sees much, much more than you. Ask questions at this point to get to the heart of the problem.

• Try to set up employee tasks such that if something is not getting done, it will be more than obvious who is responsible for the lack. If you have someone performing data entry, and the employee who has brought the complaint to you cannot perform the functions of their job until that data entry has been completed, this is a very viable complaint.

• Try to find out why the data entry has not been completed. Is the employee feeling under the weather? Are they bringing personal issues outside of the workplace into their job? Are they overworked and cannot break down the tasks? Are they easily distracted and perhaps spending time on Facebook instead? Finding out why is the key.

• For more serious issues, do you have a policy in place to handle complaints? This could be as simple as the two employees sitting down to discuss the issue, if they feel comfortable doing so. If not, then a supervisor or manager will need to be brought in and a timeframe set for the resolution of the issue, typically no more than five days. If no agreement is reached in this timeframe, a written, formal statement should be completed and presented to the owner/president of the company.

Items to include in the statement are as follows:

• The nature of the problem and circumstances of origin.

• The type of resolution requested.

• The reference in the policy handbook, if any, which was violated.

The issue should then be brought to the attention of all appropriate staff members for review over the next three to five working days. The result will then be submitted in writing to all parties involved.

Regardless of the actual issue taking place, knowing your staff, the ins and outs of their positions, and tasks they are performing will help you resolve most problems quickly and effectively. Do not be afraid to sit down and speak one on one with staff members. You will be able to identify bottlenecks in your procedures that can easily be resolved.

Remember that systems are fluid and dynamic and so are the individuals working in those systems. Knowing when to shift a procedure to the current set of circumstances is vital to the overall health of your practice.