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MANAGING STAFF

How to sift through and solve staff complaints

This month’s idea comes from a consultant who is also a former medical practice manager. It’s a short and easy way to handle one staffer’s complaint about another.

The starting point is to sift through the complaints to identify which ones warrant the manager’s attention and which ones staff should deal with on their own, says Cindy Fondren Muise of Peyton, CO.

As a manager, she set a rule that before anybody could bring in a complaint about another staffer, that person had to be prepared “to tell what can and should be done to fix it so it’s fair to everybody.”

That forces staff “to set their feelings aside and think of a solution and understand how that other person might react to it.” And in the process, staff may times realize the issue isn’t so bad after all.

And even when the complaint is valid, considering how the other person will respond often generates a new attitude of “I know how busy Staffer A is” or “she does a lot for me, and this isn’t a big deal for me to do for her.” And that leads to a more pleasant solution.

If the matter isn’t resolved there, go to the second element, which is to discuss the issue in a staff meeting.

Suppose one staffer gets overwhelmed with work and starts sending calls back to the receptionist. In turn, the receptionist comes to the administrator complaining “that’s not my job.”

Tell the receptionist that the issue will be brought up—anonymously—at the next meeting. And at the same time, show the receptionist how to participate in the discussion.

The opener at the meeting might be “is anybody overwhelmed with work and needing help?” And the receptionist is prepared to say “I’m getting calls about X. Am I supposed to be handling them?”

That not only gets the problem identified but also gives the other staffer an invitation to say something about being unable to take all the calls because of extra work.

“Not everybody will be happy with the resolution all the time,” Fondren-Muise says. But staff members know they can bring problems to the manager and the manager will help get them solved.

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