Ask Amy: I can't discipline

Ask Amy: I can't discipline

Apr 01, 2008
By staff

I'm an office manager for a practice with 26 doctors and team members. Because the owner hires personal friends, I can't effectively discipline team members who don't meet expectations. One problem employee has known the owner for more than 20 years. She's not a team player and her poor performance frustrates others. What can I do?


Dear Restricted:

This is a difficult situation, and this employee may know she won't be fired and doesn't need to work hard. So try this approach: First, speak with the owner about how this situation affects the practice, the team, and your ability to manage effectively. If you've already attempted this conversation, try again. Remain calm and professional, and emphasize how the team member's poor performance harms the practice.

If the owner doesn't let you fire, try to nail down actions you can take. Ideally, you can set schedules, offer performance reviews, assign job duties, and determine raises. Then explain your expectations to the employee, the lapses in her performance, and the effect on the team and offer a reasonable time to improve. And use the resources you control to reward employees who do perform well. Your tools may be limited, but try to make a distinction in rewards between the good employees and those who don't measure up.