Fire Your Troublemakers Before They Sabotage Your Business

Do you ignore problem employees rather than confronting them and holding them accountable for their bad behavior? As a leader, it’s your responsibility to remove obstacles and barriers that make it hard for you and your team to do your jobs. Troublemakers are definitely obstacles that need to go.

These employees negatively impact your bottom line, because they ruin your reputation with bad service. They create a toxic work environment that becomes intolerable to the talented and committed employees you want to keep. The beauty of working in a private practice and being an entrepreneur is that you can choose the kind of people you want to be around you. Expect loyalty to the practice and agreement with your vision!

To remedy the situation:

  1. Determine if the employee is really a troublemaker, or if he or she is simply fearful of change.
  2. Let employees know you will never tolerate libelous or slanderous communication.
  3. Get rid of people who won’t get on board with the direction your practice is moving.

1. Decide if S/He is Really a Troublemaker

Sometimes capable and loyal employees are fearful of change and act out based on their discomfort. Sometimes the person is a bad apple who will continue to disrupt and disrespect your process. How do you know the difference?

When someone firedis having trouble coping with change, she has thoughts and feelings along the lines of:

  • “I am going to lose something of great value to me.”
  • “I don’t’ understand what’s changing and how this change will affect me.”
  • “I don’t think this change makes any sense for our practice.”
  • “I don’t like change, and it makes me nervous.”

Problem employees, on the other hand, are not people who occasionally make mistakes rooted in fear. These are people who repeatedly act out. They are hostile and selfish and act in deceitful or underhanded ways. Troublemakers are way past the three-strike rule.

2. Do Not Tolerate Defamation

Libel and slander are communication of a false statement that causes harm to the reputation of an individual or organization. Libel is defamation of character when it’s in writing, such as on social media. Slander is defamation when it’s spoken aloud and heard by someone else. False statements include ones like:

  • “This practice only cares about money.”
  • “They don’t care about me.”
  • “They only care about themselves.”

Confront the offending employee and say: “I expect you to manage yourself in a better way. I won’t tolerate this kind of discussion or behavior. If you are slandering me, or the clinic, what you’re really saying is that you don’t trust the direction the practice is going. If that’s the case, I invite you to leave our hospital.”

3. Fire The Ones Who Need to Go

A good rule of thumb for managing resistance is to give people no more than 60 days to respond to change. If it takes longer, the person is a troublemaker and you need to fire him or her ASAP.

It is always uncomfortable to fire people. The 36 hours leading up to the termination and immediately after are painful! But practice leaders are often willing to experience years of pain to avoid these few hours. Don’t make that mistake! There are plenty of other fish in the sea, people who will be loyal and committed to the success of your hospital.

What Would Shawn Do? Asking for a Past-Due Performance Review


I’m an experienced technician working in a busy veterinary practice. According to our employee manual, we are supposed to get an annual review on or before our anniversary date each year, when we are considered for a performance-based pay increase.

I’m coming up on two years there, but my boss, the practice owner, hasn’t scheduled a review meeting with me yet. I work hard to be 100% every day. I care about this practice, but I’m beginning to think she is simply trying to avoid giving me what I believe is a well-deserved raise. What should I do?


First, assume your boss has the best of intentions. As you said, this is a busy practice. Perhaps her neglect has nothing to do with lack of appreciation or avoiding giving you a raise and everything to do with the demands on her time and energy.

But you need to take the bull by the horns. Schedule the date and time for the performance review yourself, and send the owner a meeting request. Remind her that your two-year anniversary is coming up.

Let your boss know how eager you are to learn from her feedback. Tell her that you are always looking for ideas for how you can improve your performance and increase the value you add to the hospital.

If you take this proactive approach and your review is still indefinitely delayed, look for a new job. There are other opportunities available in the industry for someone with your experience and dedication.

Good luck!

What Would Shawn Do? Coping with a Co-worker Who Won’t Pull Her Weight


One of my co-workers seems completely checked out lately. She used to do a good job and we got along well, but the last several months she is constantly either taking smoke or bathroom breaks or on her phone. It isn’t fair for me to have to work twice as hard to keep up with everything that needs to be done in our busy practice. I don’t want to be a nag or a tattletale, but this has to stop. She’s a very sensitive person and gets defensive easily. What should I do?


How frustrating! You definitely need to confront her, even though you expect her to be defensive.

Write a brief script for how you will confront her, and practice it ahead of time. Think back to times she HAS been open to what you’ve had to say. What did you say or do that contributed to her reaction?

When you have the conversation, ask a question and really listen to the answer. “Lately I’ve noticed you’ve been acting differently at work. Is everything okay?” or “You don’t seem like yourself lately. Is anything bothering you?” Show concern and offer to help if you can.

Tell her what you are seeing and how it is impacting you. “When you are on your phone or away from our work station when it isn’t your break, it is stressful and hard for me to get my job done.” Wait for her to respond. She may apologize and offer a solution.

If she does not offer a solution, hold her accountable for solving the problem and ask her what she will do to solve it. “I expect this to change. Please commit to being on your phone and going out to smoke only when it is your break.”

If she isn’t receptive, or she promises to change but doesn’t, you will have no choice but to move up the chain of command and tell your boss. At that point, you will know you have done your best and are not being a tattletale.

 Good luck!

What Would Shawn Do? Reducing Receptionist Turnover


Our turnover among the receptionists is awful. It seems like as soon as we get one adequately trained, the person quits and we have to go through the whole process all over again. The compensation and benefits packages we offer are competitive, so I don’t think they are leaving for more money. What can I do as practice manager to hire better?


Good for you for offering competitive salaries and benefits, and for recognizing the need to improve your hiring practices moving forward. You are already ahead of the game!

High turnover impacts the profitability of your practice, takes up your
valuable time, and impacts the morale of existing employees. Everyone’s performance suffers! So what do you do?

Hire not only for skills, but for a good fit with your practice values and culture. Have you identified your company values? If not, you’ve got to do it now or you’ll keep losing people.

If you already have organizational values, design your interview
questions with the purpose of uncovering whether or not the candidate shares them. For example, if one of your company values is collaboration, ask behavior-based questions like:

  • Describe a time when you cooperated with a co-worker to accomplish a task. What did you do?
  • Describe a time when you wished you’d worked more collaboratively with others. What do you wish you had done differently?

See my previous articles on investing in your star performers and avoiding employee burnout for tips on how to make sure you keep thegood ones.


Good luck!

Three Strikes and You’re Out!

It’s disappointing when an employee doesn’t meet your expectations. You may be frustrated, but it’s important to assume goodwill on the part of the poor performer. No one gets up in the morning and plans to disappoint you. No one wants to fail at his or her job.

But not everyone is going to be a good fit for your company. That’s a fact. If one of your team members just doesn’t get it, doesn’t want the job, or doesn’t have the capacity to do it, don’t let the drama drag on.

How do you know when you’ve given enough chances? How do you know when it’s time to let the person go?

The Analysis

Here’s a fair process for confronting performance problems and getting the wrong people off the bus:

1. Does the person adhere to your organization’s core values?

Really, the ideal team member exhibits behavior that supports ALL of the organization’s core values most or all of the time. But when you need to draw the line, where do you draw it?

First, you have your “non-negotiable” values, like honesty. If the person doesn’t adhere to those non-negotiable values, s/he needs to go. There’s just not a lot of room for discussion here.

If the employee meets all of your non-negotiable core values but is iffy on two or more of the others (like “reliability” or “service first”), it’s time to let that person go.

2. Does the person pass the GWC test?

The GWC test (Gets it, Wants it, has the Capacity) is the second phase of the analysis.

  • Does the person “get it,” meaning does s/he understand her role, the team’s values, and the applicable systems and expectations?
  • Does the employee want it, meaning does s/he really want that particular job?
  • Does the employee have the capacity (time, intellect, skill, knowledge, emotional intelligence, and physical ability) to do the job?

If the answer to any of the questions is “no,” ask yourself if the person is the right fit but in the wrong seat. Can you make room for the employee somewhere else in your organization? If not, it’s time for that person to go.

The Three Strike Rule

Assuming it’s a situation where you can’t move the person to another seat and want to give her a chance to improve, use the three-strike rule as outlined by Gino Wickman in Traction. First, tell the employee that there’s a problem and give her 30 days to improve. That’s Strike 1. Here’s what could happen:

  • The person totally turns things around, improves performance, and shows that s/he is actually a good fit. It’s a win-win for all involved.
  • The person leaves your practice. That’s OK. It wasn’t a fit, and you can all move on.
  • Performance does not improve in 30 days. That’s Strike 2. You discuss it again and give her another 30 days. No improvement. That’s Strike 3. The employee is not going to change, and you have to let the person go.

Remember, just because a particular employee is not a good fit for your company culture, or for the role you need to fill, does not mean she won’t be a good fit someplace else. She is probably tired of disappointing you. It is in the best interest of your company, your team, and the under-performer to let her go.