Preventing A Toxic Workplace In Optometry Practices

toxic work environment

 

I used to think that women were the sole drama creators in the workplace, but boy is that far from the truth…and yes, pun intended.

It doesn’t matter if you have an office full of women or an office full of men. An unhealthy work environment boils down to the maturity level of your employees. You either have staff members who are miserable because they feel like they’re stuck in a job they hate or because they’re insecure about themselves and easily become threatened by hard-working employees.

It’s tough to work in the medical field. It’s high stress, you can easily get on one another’s nerves and you’re around the same people…A LOT.

In this blog, I will show you how you can pay closer attention to your employee’s work health to not only make it a safer and more enjoyable work environment, but to increase your optometry practice’s profits.

 

YES, how your employees are treated affects how they perform…and how they perform affects your bottom line.

 

how to diversify optical practice

 

 

Are you in the process of hiring or need tips for the future?

My best advice is to hire a nice mixed background of people. I think diversity in offices is a wonderful thing and can teach your staff how to work with all different kinds of people.

Other tips for hiring:

  • Don’t hire just based on looks. If you’re adamant that everyone on your optical team has to be stunningly beautiful to hire, chances are you’re just hurting yourself.
  • Obviously, people can be really misleading in the interview process, but do more than 1 interview and see how reliable they are. I had 2 interviews for the optometry technician position and I knew they were business. Look for things like:
    • Do they show up on time for each interview and are they dressed well?
    • Do they seem passionate and really interested in learning the job?
    • Do they really want this position or are they applying just because they need quick money?
  • Ask them directly how they would deal with bullies in the workplace if that were to occur.
  • Make sure you check references! I know so many people who don’t actually check references and who knows, you could be hiring someone who stole loads of frames from a previous optometry practice and sold them on eBay (TRUE STORY).

 

 

 

My last tip is don’t be afraid to hire someone who has no experience in optometry. Usually, if someone is applying for a job they have no experience in, they are eager and driven to learn the craft. Don’t worry about the hassle of training and having a higher payroll for a couple of weeks. It’ll pay off to have a passionate employee rather than a quick and easy hire. I had absolutely no experience before my first job in optometry. I was nervous about whether or not I would get the job because of it, but I showed up with a positive attitude, had good energy, and was just myself! I also REALLY wanted the job and made it clear that I was eager to learn. This is the sign of a good future employee. Take notes of these things.

With that said, make sure your staff does not get bitter when they have to train someone new (no matter how often that is). Pull the trainee aside and ask how it’s going. Be observant of the way the trainee is talked to and how much effort is being put into teaching them the right way. I’ve had really amazing trainers and I’ve had really awful trainers who were terrible because they were mad about having to train in the first place. These bad attitudes are not worth having in your company! No matter how integral of a role they play or how inconvenient it would be, everyone is replaceable and it would benefit you in the long run.

 

Do not invite a toxic work environment!

Even if you are the owner or manager and you don’t see it, there is a high chance that there are issues with co-workers behind the scenes. The last office-setting position I held was at an optometry practice and it was one of the worst cases of co-worker drama I’ve had in a long time. It made going to work miserable for me. I highly suggest you go out of your way to make sure your staff feels comfortable and to show everyone that you don’t condone unprofessional behavior.

As a manager, here’s what you can do to support a healthy work environment:

  • Bring each employee aside between seeing patients and ask if there is anything making them uncomfortable in the workplace
  • Have a monthly staff meeting to express concerns where the staff can talk amongst themselves about frustrations
  • Do monthly work reviews that are anonymous (employees rarely want to be seen as the one complaining)
  • Have a concern box that is confidential and encourage employees to bring their concerns to your attention

Keep in mind that if there is a concern between two specific people and someone is being a bully, this is something that needs to be addressed immediately and in private. Sometimes the people involved won’t feel comfortable coming forth with their situation. In this case, invite an open-door policy where other co-workers can voice their concerns if they witness bullying in the workplace.

In most cases, if the issue isn’t resolved, it will bottle up in someone and one day cause them to explode. It will come as a shock to you and you’ll feel bad that you didn’t know there was an issue in the first place.

 

 

how to avoid workplace bullies

What exactly is bullying as an adult?

This is not just something that elementary kids do to each other in grade school. In fact, bullying gets worse the older you get.

In my experience, there were signs of bullying in the optometry office I worked in:

  • People talking behind each other’s backs (this includes gossip and rumors)
  • Pointing out someone’s minor errors with intent to make them look bad in front of superiority
  • Making co-workers feel ostracized in their own workplace
  • GOSSIPING to other co-workers to turn others against someone
  • Not including them in downtime small talk
  • Avoiding eye contact and courtesy actions like saying hello and goodbye
  • Having an attitude and making it seem like your questions are stupid

Even if someone doesn’t come forth with an issue, sometimes just knowing that they work in an environment with a zero-tolerance for bullying in the workplace is enough to keep them feeling protected.

 

A toxic environment is affecting your practice’s profits

You may have an amazing optometry practice, with loyal patients, top-tier service, and the most advanced technology. BUT, none of that means anything if you don’t have happy employees that keep your business a well-oiled machine. Like it or not, your practice’s success is dependent on your employees. Could you operate without them? Sure, but on a very very small scale and I’m sure many things will get overlooked. Think of Steve Jobs running amazon as a billion-dollar company by himself. It’s just not possible.

Even a minor hiccup in a co-worker’s relationship can have an effect on their performance.
Being surrounded in a toxic environment every day where even just one of your staff members dread going to work because of another employee is the LAST thing you want in your practice.

 

How To Balance The Workplace Atmosphere

There’s no easy fix or one-off solutions for human-to-human conflicts. We have emotions and are deeply complicated. Your best bet is to do the best you can and learn what does and does not work for your practice. Here are a couple of ideas you can try:

 

#1 Listen to your staff

Sometimes your staff just wants to feel heard and understood. They’re not always expecting you to drop what you’re doing and knockdown boulders for them, but it matters if you take the time to listen. Even doing something simple like making a small change or adjustment in their favor to help with their concerns, will make them feel like you respect their concerns. It will also make them more comfortable to come to you with future issues if any because you earned their trust.

 

#2 Get rid of the bad apples

Think of a bag of apples. One bad apple starts to make all the surrounding ones rot – and quickly. If you don’t want a negative atmosphere or have employees that constantly complain and turn others against one another, then you need to hit the nail on the head. The first thing you want to do is address the situation and work out a plan to improve the issues. If you’ve tried everything you can’t seem to solve the issue, YOU NEED TO CAN THEM. It’s no sweat off your back and if you’re worried about the process of rehiring and retraining, just note that you will be losing way more in the long run if you don’t just take the temporary inconvenience.

 

bad apple

 

#3 Give your staff new roles & cross-train them

This is a great way to keep things fresh and new every day. Doing the same thing every single day, especially in a small optometry practice with few employees is sure to strike frustrations. There is a fair amount of downtime in-between seeing patients and inserting patient records into the EHR. Give your staff more opportunity to learn a new skill and change up the scene. This way they won’t be around the same people all day long and they can feel more purpose from their position at your practice.

 

Put Your Employees First & Watch Your Practice Thrive

The inevitable success of your practice starts with your employees. I know it’s not easy to face human conflict, but you will be surprised how much the atmosphere will change in your practice once your staff is taken care of. You want your workplace to be a safe space for your employees. Not a place they go to and feel unsafe or vulnerable to bullies. That’s a miserable way to live for anyone.

Talk to your staff, make them feel comfortable coming to you with any issues. Get rid of the drama-inducers and make work more exciting for your staff by giving them new responsibility. You will notice a complete flip on company morale and your P&L statements will show a dramatic increase in revenue.