It's hard to know what your staff really thinks. However, finding out is important: good staff morale isn't a nicety, it's a necessity to the health of your practice.
When your staff members are out of the office, what do they say about their jobs? About you? About the office manager? Is it positive, perhaps negative, or something in-between? Is it "just a job" for them or one that they really "love"? Or is it one they actually "hate" but "tolerate" because they need a job? Such distinctions can impact staff morale, productivity - even patient satisfaction.
One of my seminar surveys asks staff members in attendance to write on index cards what they like or dislike about the doctors or office managers for whom they work. I require no signatures to encourage forthright answers, without concern for repercussions.
I've compiled a few of these replies, both favorable and unfavorable, in the hope they'll provide insights into achieving a happier, more productive workplace.
• "When the doctor receives candy, wine, fruit, and other gifts from patients, he shares these with the entire office staff - letting us know we're part of the team."
• "I'm the caretaker for a seriously ill family member. The doctor has been wonderfully supportive in helping me juggle my schedule to meet my needs in this situation. He lets me know that family is the number one priority, and does not make me feel guilty about the time off that I need. That relieves me of additional pressures. I make sure I give back in return."
• "I'm given considerable freedom to do my job as I see fit. Unlike my last job, no one looks over my shoulder or harasses me about times and details."
• "She has a great sense of humor which makes it pleasant for everyone - patients included."
• "I feel appreciated. I left another practice after nine years where the doctors always made you feel like you were just a number. I love it here."
• "He's been very understanding of my child-care responsibilities, and adjusted my hours to accommodate my hectic schedule."
• "Over the years there have been several patients who were rude, insulting, and made inappropriate remarks to us (staff). When the doctor was told about these patients, he took them aside, told them if they ever repeated this behavior, they would be dismissed from the practice. And he meant it. Putting us first was greatly appreciated."
• "The doctor gave me (and another person from the billing department) the opportunity to attend coding seminars and achieve certification which advanced our careers (and salaries). It also resulted in higher reimbursements."
• "Moody one day, nice the next. You never know what to expect."
• "Staff members who shouldn't be here are allowed to stay."
• "I'm often asked to stay late, which is a terrible imposition. To make matters worse, it's not appreciated."
• "The doctor yells at us in front of patients. It's humiliating."
• "The office manager has no business being in charge of anything. She has no listening skills, talks over you when you try to speak, argues with you, and talks down to you. I avoid her whenever possible."
• "A new employee was hired - with far less experience than I have - and is being paid more than me - and I've been here four years. And who do you think they asked to train this new employee? Me!"
• "The doctor never says thank you for anything - ever!"
• "The work load has increased and we're way understaffed. The pressure to keep up is extremely stressful."
• "We've been told there's not going to be raises - and if you don't like it, you can find work elsewhere. The office morale stinks."
Good staff morale isn't a nicety. It's a necessity! Unhappy employees don't perform as well as those who truly like their jobs and the people for whom they work. They're not as interested in what they do or how well they do it. They tend to be more careless and they're not as pleasant to patients. And that can take a heavy toll on patient satisfaction and your reputation.
Bob Levoy is the author of seven books and hundreds of articles on human resource and practice management topics. His newest book is “222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices” published by Jones & Bartlett. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.