How to Hire and When to Fire

Many dentists struggle with hiring or firing employees.  Some have a tough time finding or picking the right people for their office, and others are uncomfortable with the idea of letting someone go.  Why is this such a struggle for some of us?

Hiring comes down to culture.  Finding the right person to fit your office, your culture, and you can be difficult, especially since you can’t tell who this person is from a resume or a simple interview.  Time tells if they will be a good fit.  Though there are some key questions you can ask and some key elements of an interview, ultimately this person will only reveal their true self after some time in the office and with the right training and motivation. 

If you are hiring someone for the position of collecting money, then clearly this person MUST be comfortable collecting money and not falling for the story of why someone can’t pay.  They need to be able to respectfully and clearly communicate the notion of ‘fee for service’ and have the expectation and ability to collect payment as per office policy. 

When hiring new team members, I find it very important to communicate who I am to the person I am interviewing so that I can be clear and transparent with the working environment in my office.  I want to make sure this person knows what I am like, what my expectations are and be very clear that they are a good fit, otherwise we are wasting everyone’s time.  So being open and direct about who you are, what your beliefs and expectations are, and what your dealbreakers are as well, so basically what you will not allow, is very important to the integrity of the interview and hiring process.

When it comes to firing, it should not be a stressful process at all.  Letting someone go should be ultimately expected and not a surprise as many steps should be taken prior to discuss lack of progress or commitment to systems in the office.  Anytime you are firing someone, they should have had some warnings, some communications regarding the issues you feel are present, and by the time you are letting them go, it should not be a surprise. 

I find that when I have someone that is not doing something they are supposed to, for example, being frequently late, the first time it becomes an issue, we have a simple conversation to establish my expectations of when they should be coming into the office and what “being on time” looks like. 

If it happens again, another conversation occurs, this time focusing on what’s happening in this person’s life where they can’t show up on time at work.  Every now and then I come across a person who lives by this very misguided rule:

NOT doing something + having a good excuse/reason = doing it

I worked with someone like that, and although she always had a very good reason for why she was late, ultimately it still resulted in her being late routinely and drove me crazy. 

So by the time we are having a third conversation, it’s a discussion on the impact their behaviour has on the rest of the team and that’s unacceptable.  At this point, I would give them 2 weeks notice and let them know that if this happens again, they simply don’t need to come to work and finish their 2 weeks notice at home.  If this person manages to show up on time after that, I would consider giving them a chance to stay with the full understanding that this won’t happen again (except in case of emergency or accident). 

Managing people’s expectations BEFORE those expectations are realized is key to running a smooth business.  Making sure people know what your expectations are by clearly communicating them, then following through on the consequences you set out creates a precedent to build better future behaviour in your employees.  Following through on what you said you would do if those expectations are not met also builds respect among the rest of the team members and oftentimes causes team members to correct each other and help each other when someone falls short, so that you don’t have to step in and get involved. 

Communication both when hiring and when firing is key to a smooth, stress-free process, and results in better culture and teamwork. 

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