“Doc. We need to talk.” My office manager was giving me that half smile that meant she had something not terribly nice to say. I had packed up my belongings and was heading out the door. She realized this. “Oh, are you leaving? Well, I am going to call you and we are going to have a chat…”
Yeah. That was NOT going to go well with my kids screaming in the car as I was driving home in the rain after dark.
“Come on back to my office. Let’s talk. I have a few minutes.”
She closed the door behind her and leaned against it. “Well, you got what you wanted.”
“No. I didn’t. What I really wanted was for them to do their jobs.” I sat down and motioned for her to have a seat.
“Well, they have all quit now. You cleaned house.”
“And you think I am happy about this? The biggest tragedy is that each of these people are capable of doing amazing things, of being truly great, but they chose not to. Even after repeated opportunities.”
“Well that email that you sent saying you could not trust them? They all said that was the reason they were leaving.”
“Am I not allowed to say that I do not trust staff that are not trustworthy?”
“No. You cannot. I have to do that for you.” Her eyes flashed. “They also said that they felt you were different, not as friendly after the incident.”
“After they do something so awful, so egregious that technically they should be fired, I am supposed to treat them as if nothing happened? When they stomp around and refuse to speak to me or the other physicians that is not going to change the dynamic of the relationship?”
To give some background, check out this post about the Thanksgiving debacle then come back.
After uncovering the fact that they were refusing to schedule patients the afternoon before thanksgiving, it was recommended that I fire them that day.
But I didn’t.
I like to believe in people. I decided to make it a final warning to send a message but stopped short of actual termination. The holidays were coming up after all.
I expected them to acknowledge what they did was wrong. I expected contrition. I expected them to work hard to prove that they could be trusted again.
Instead, there was sulking. There was outright animosity. It lasted for weeks. And my schedule? Slammed. They were booking me through until 4:45, putting in 15 minute physicals, double booking without clearance… It was a nightmare of astronomical proportions. At 5PM, they would walk away, leaving my nurse and myself to finish up with patients late into the evening.
I waited it out for a week or two, thinking their anger would die down and things would go back to normal. They did not.
Finally, I had enough.
I told my office manager to make sure they all understood how the schedule was supposed to work and that if they did not observe the rules, they would be disciplined (read fired). Furthermore, someone had to be available at the front to check out patients until the last one left. She did this by sending out an email to the entire front desk staff and CC’d me.
One employee responded by saying that she did not have to obey those guidelines because she and I had a special relationship that allowed her to do whatever she wanted.
I replied simply, “I cannot trust any of you right now. We will discuss it further during the staff meeting tomorrow.”
You cannot take liberties with my schedule.
HR was upset that I wrote that, saying that by doing so I was discussing disciplinary issues with other staff members and it could be considered a breach of privacy. Wrong. I made no mention of the disciplinary incident.
HR also did not want us having a meeting with the staff to discuss patient access to care because that could be deemed harassment.
As the staff continued to have issues in other areas, we were told we could not fire them for those reasons. The patient portal was too new (over six months) and they had not received enough education on it (despite having to complete an online training AND being reminded repeatedly to take care of patient messages). You can’t fire someone for a bad attitude they said and if I did, it could be considered retaliation. Etc.
Throughout this whole process never once did the staff involved say they were sorry and I was told that I could not tell them individually how hurt I was over what had occurred and their subsequent reactions.
Now, one by one over the past two weeks they have resigned.
Admittedly, I am angry. I am angry that I truly do not own this practice, that I do not have autonomy no matter what they say. I am angry at my staff for cheating patients, blocking access for their own self serving reasons without permission, and then not even showing remorse. I am angry with myself for not being able to inspire them to do the right thing, for being such a poor judge of character to have hired them in the first place.
Most of all I hate HR for making me question my sanity.