When personality, not performance, is the problem

When personality, not performance, is the problem

In a perfect world, every employee in your practice would be not only skilled, competent and confident, but also charismatic, cheerful and an exemplary team player. Sadly, we do not live in that perfect world. From time to time, most offices struggle with an employee who is good at their job but lacking in the personality department. Here are just a few of the traits that can cause problems in a medical office.

Moody: The moody employee may be down in the dumps a good deal of the time, zapping the optimism out of everyone in their sphere, or they may be unpredictable – happy one day, cranky the next and depressed the day after that. Either way, Moody Maria is no treat to be around.

Catty: Here we have someone who gossips, backstabs, pits co-workers against one another for sport, is exceedingly sarcastic, takes credit for the work of others, is never to blame for anything or is just plain snarky. Catty Cathy is justifiably feared by her co-workers.

Hostile: This is the employee who doesn’t even try to get along with people. He’ll butt heads at every turn and start an argument at the slightest provocation. He’s easily offended and often angry. Hostile Hank has issues.

Obnoxious: This staffer is loud, boorish, pushy, uncouth, a know-it-all, or can’t resist telling off-color jokes and using thinly veiled ethnic slurs. When people see her coming, they duck into the nearest empty room to avoid an encounter. Obnoxious Olivia would benefit from a semester at charm school.

What should you do if you find yourself working with someone whose personality is causing problems in the office? If you’re a peer, you can try having a conversation with the individual, but this is a high-risk proposition. No one likes having their flaws pointed out, and in doing so you might make a bad situation worse. Unless you have a close relationship with the person in question and want to try engaging them in dialogue, the best course of action is to bring the issue to the attention of a manager or supervisor. Avoid reporting the problem in general terms (“Janet is a total pain!”), but instead, offer examples of specific behaviors, along with how the situation is impacting the practice (“Rebecca comes in to work in a bad mood almost every day. It’s hurting morale, and patients are picking up on the negative energy.”).

Now the ball is in the manager’s court. Some steps that may be helpful at this stage include:

  • Have an honest conversation with the employee about how the manner in which they are coming across is negatively impacting other employees and patients. Sometimes just bringing the issue to the attention of a staffer is enough to result in improved behavior.
  • If a conversation doesn’t do the trick, and if a particular employee is highly valued, consider hiring a coach to work with them on how to manage themselves more appropriately in the workplace. Caution: This only works if the employee is receptive to coaching. You can’t just say, “You’re causing problems, here’s a coach we’ve hired for you, now shape up.”
  • If personality clashes are more than just an occasional event, it might be helpful to set aside time at a staff meeting to clarify expectations and drive home the point that working in your office requires that people function as a team, treat one another with respect, and be conscious of how their attitude and behavior impact both co-workers and patients.

When you put a group of people together in tight quarters to work (especially in stressful and demanding environments, as medical offices can sometimes be) conflicts will arise. The goal should be to identify and deal with issues quickly and effectively so that negativity does not taint the practice in a sustainable way.

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