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Terminating an employee is never easy, especially when you’ve invested time and money in training, development, and relationship building. Knowing when poor performance and a less-than-positive attitude are beyond repair is essential to keeping your urgent care running smoothly and drama free.

Even with smart hiring practices, good training, and consistent healthy communication, some employees don’t work out. In some cases, a team member’s attitude changes over time due to personal reasons, stress, or in-clinic incidents that perhaps you aren’t aware of, or the staff member is not comfortable sharing.

Give your employees the opportunity to succeed by spelling out your expectations, setting boundaries and benchmarks, and clearly stating “no tolerance” issues. Fostering an environment where two-way, open communication is encouraged and valued as well as discouraging retaliation, can also encourage staff to share issues that might be occurring both personally and professionally before they have a significant impact on work performance.

As an owner or manager, your first responsibility is to your patients, your clinic, and its profitability. It’s advisable to have regular conversations with at-risk employees to advise and assist in improving their performance. At-risk employees that are struggling in their current role may be worth developing if they contribute to the company in other ways.

In some cases, poor employee performance can be resolved through communication. But when you’ve exhausted practical solutions and an employee is a cost to your clinic instead of an asset, it’s time to make a firm decision to terminate employment.

5 questions to ask yourself before making the decision to fire.

  1.  How severe is the violation? Has the employee put your clinic at risk by violating HIPAA, OSHA, or some other state, federal, or similar regulations? Does the employee realize the implications of the violation for you, your patients, or other employees? Employees who don’t understand or adhere to mandated regulations may be too big a risk to your company. Termination may be your best choice.
  2. Does the employee have a bad attitude that negatively affects the rest of your staff?
    If yes, the costs can be greater than you think. You could lose other valuable staff. Consider the time and effort spent on repeated management of a poor employee’s behavior. What do above average or non-problem employees think, and how do they react to being unrecognized for not being troublemakers? 
  3. Does the employee’s attitude negatively affect patients?
    Negative comments from patients travel fast and could affect your reputation in the community. You risk losing current patients to a competitor and may have difficulty attracting new customers.
  4. Would the employee do better in a different position?
    Sometimes offering an alternative position for which an employee is better suited can fix the problem, especially when an employee has a good attitude, a passion for healthcare, and a willingness to learn something new. Be honest with yourself. Does the employee have the skills to excel in a different position, or are you simply putting off an inevitable termination?
  5. Have you taken the time to listen to the employee?
    Sometimes an employee may have a valid complaint that can be easily resolved. And better yet, employees can offer solutions to a challenge that make sense for everyone. Listening to their solutions to challenges, and making changes that improve operations, morale, and performance not only make employees feel like a valuable part of your team but can also make your business run more smoothly.

As a business owner, it’s likely you’ll have to fire an employee at some point in the life of your organization. In many states, employees are “at will,” and you need no actual grounds for terminating them, although that’s not always the most cost-effective solution. If you think it might help the employee in the future, let them know their strengths and the reasons you made the decision to terminate employment.

Once you’ve considered your options and made a decision to terminate an employee, be confident and firm. You may find other team members were experiencing more difficulties than you thought. Removing bad performers can boost clinic morale and improve your team’s ability to work together and support each other. In addition, you will reduce the chances that other staff will pick up bad habits and attitudes. In the end, you’ve probably learned lessons that will help with HR issues in the future and make your urgent care a better place to work.

This is the final post in our HR Series. You may also be interested in the reading about, Hiring an HR Manager,  Recruiting, and Employee Retention.

This resource was first published prior to the 2019 merger between DocuTAP and Practice Velocity. The content reflects our legacy brands.

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