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    Secrets you don't know about your staff

    Happiness is relative — what makes one staff member happy and satisified doesn't do it for another

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    Dianna E. Graves, COMT, BS Ed
    Spring has sprung and all the usual activities that occur with the season have begun: grass is greening, robins are singing and building nests, daffodils are blooming—and your technicians have come out of their winter hibernation and are giving their resignation notices that they are moving to a competing practice across town!

    Because of the long winter months, most of us have been pleasantly hunkered into a quiet, oblivious state. We have focused on staying warm and existing in a cozy pattern of drifting peacefully through each day at a leisurely pace. No angst, no problems, no worries.

    Then your favorite technician walks in, opens the front door with an icy blast, and hands you his or her 2-week notice. How could this happen to you? Were there any warning signs you missed? And then there is the big question: Is anyone else plotting to leave?

    Losing staff, especially staff that you liked and felt were valuable to your practice, is a devastating experience. Emotions run high on both sides of the table. As the one being left behind, it's almost like breaking up in a relationship. Because that's what you had, wasn't it?

    You trusted them, cared for them, took care of them, and expected them to do the same for you. Next will come the feelings of betrayal, and finally, anger. I have seen some practices tell the technician who is leaving to forget the 2-week notice and just leave that day. That's not because it is a good business practice in most cases, it's because you are angry and hurt. It's become personal to you.

    The departing technician, even though he or she is leaving soon, has feelings as well: guilt. (Oh, yes, he or she has it.) He or she is afraid you are going to be mad at him or her, and he or she feels loss because his or she is leaving the "office family."

    So, if he or she feels this badly, then why is he or she leaving?

    Hope springs eternal

    Most folks cannot wait to see the glimmer of spring. As a manager, I have learned to fear Daylight Saving Time and the chaos it will soon bring to our practice. Chaos, you ask? The chaos that will commence when someone from my staff walks in and breaks my heart in the form of a resignation.

    But, let's not forget that there is another side to this story as well. While your staff was quietly beginning to scope out greener pastures, you were eyeing your technical staff to determine who might need to be culled from the team due to poor performance, poor motivation, or just poor behavior. You were also getting ready because there would be a fresh batch of technicians in the job mill looking for a new home.

    So, what are these secrets lurking behind the scenes in your office?

    1 Your staff is always on the prowl for greener pastures. New jobs don't just drop into their laps—they were advertised on Monster/Hot Jobs or the like, or appeared via a telephone call that was made from one office to the candidate (formerly your technician). Eventually, an interview was set up. Something piqued his or her interest and he or she went and tested the waters. Morale, "survivor guilt/remorse," and scheduling nightmares all come crashing down relatively quickly onto your house of cards.

    I recently had a doctor tell me: "I am not the biggest practice in the area, but my competitors keep poaching from me just the same. I keep having to re-invent the wheel. What can I do to stop this from happening?"

    2 What makes your staff look for a new home? I can't tell you how many managers make the same statement when they talk with me about losing a staff member: "I thought they were happy." It doesn't matter if you thought they were happy. It's not about you, it's about them.

    If I knew what made anyone else happy, I would have my own little version of the Holy Grail and would bottle it.

    Happiness is a relative state. What makes one staff member happy and satisfied doesn't do it for another. Asking your staff if they are happy isn't going to do it either. In most cases, they will tell you they are happy and fulfilled, knowing full well that they have an interview set up tomorrow at 10 a.m.

    Sometimes they want a new challenge. Remember: simply making a change is a new challenge to them. Sometimes they want to move up to a larger, better-known practice. Sometimes their friends tempt them with tales of grandeur and good times in their offices. Sadly, their friends are constantly tempting them to come to their office and work because they will receive a $500 signing bonus for bringing in new staff. I call that "the bounty."

    Whatever happiness is, you can't give it or ensure it to your staff. The best you can do is get close to it for them: competitive wages and benefits, a safe environment to work in that treats people with respect, and an opportunity to grow and make their lives important to them. Basically, a happy work environment to come to each day. Of course, there will be issues and bad days from time to time. But these should be the exception, not the everyday workplace setting.

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