Employees in my dental practice aren’t following my rules about no cell phones. What should I do?
Dear Dr. Gina,
I own a small but busy dental practice in Michigan. I’m super irritated and confused with a couple of my employees. I have a strict no phone policy in my office, which I expect people to respect. However, I’ve personally noticed and it’s been brought to my attention from my office manager, that a couple of my front office employees will run to the bathroom, with their phones, and stay in there for sometimes 20-25 minutes, most likely using their phones. It’s uncomfortable to bring this up to them but I feel that I should. This is so disrespectful!! How do I best solve this problem and approach this situation?
Fed Up and Frustrated
Dear Fed Up and Frustrated,
I can understand why you are frustrated. As practice owners, when we have policies in place, and an employee violates those policies, it can sometimes feel like a personal attack on us. We care so deeply about the success of our practices and our employees, and we might immediately assume that that employee is ungrateful to work for us.
However, I don’t think that it’s possible to hire people who are between the age range of 20-40 years old and expect them to never be on their cell phones. If an employee is doing a great job, is it actually hurting the practice if they text their loved ones or check Facebook every once in a while?
There are two points I would like to address about this situation:
Accountability in Leadership:
I say this because I truly care about the effectiveness of your leadership and the success of your practice: The fact that your employees are hiding in the bathroom is a problem with your leadership. Micro-managing leads to disengagement. You are never going to get a full 8 hours out of your employees because occasionally they need to do personal things during work hours. They are not wrong in wanting to check their phone once in a while. They may need to use the phone occasionally, and feel scared to do so because of your strict policies. It seems that you want to control your employees and treat them like children. Ben Horrovitz, co-founder of the venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, and best-selling author, has a great quote. He states, “If you treat your employees like children, be ready for your office to turn into one big Barney show.” It sounds funny and odd, but it’s true.
Being an autocratic leader and enforcing strict policies (unless they are policies ensuring patients safety and health) is usually stifling your employees desire and motivation to work for you, which in turn is unproductive. It makes them fear you and feel the need to hide things from you. This creates a toxic work culture. What helped me in learning how to effectively lead was reading many well-vetted books on leadership. If you’d like to check out my list of recommended books on business, you can check them out here.
Identify The Root Problem: A Disengaged Employee:
If people are truly engaged and like their work, then they will not feel the need to run to the bathroom for an hour. If your employees are always on the phone, then the root of the problem isn’t the fact that they are on the phone. The root of the problem is that they are disengaged from their work.
Why are some employees disengaged?
There are many reasons. Some employees do not genuinely enjoy their work and want to be in a different job or field entirely. Some people have so much drama in their lives that they don’t have time for work. Others are either unmotivated or bored.
Create a Realistic Computer Policy and a Healthy Work Culture
Rather than micromanaging, create a computer use policy to keep your network safe, and encourage your employees to use their own devices if they need to check Facebook, order something from Amazon, or make wedding arrangements. Expecting that they will never do personal things during work hours is unrealistic. However, trusting them to use most of their work hours to produce great work is realistic and necessary. In doing this you create a productive work culture.
My point is, you do have to set certain boundaries with your employees. But be realistic in setting those boundaries. I hope that this helps you to take effective action as a practice owner in order to solve this issue with your employees.
Dr. Gina Dorfman
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