Guest post by Aaron M. Layton DDS
Three years ago I purchased my practice. A nice, modern practice with a solid patient base and long-term employees – everything I dreamed of. But it wasn’t more than a few months before I knew managing a team was going to be my most difficult task to date. (You think Boards were tough…ha-ha-ha.)
I dove into every HR book in the Barnes and Noble business section and any Webinar associated with keeping a team happy. One thing stuck out: You are more likely to be sued by an employee than a patient. This bothered me, so I armed myself with the best possible thing I could imagine, KINDNESS.
I’m a nice guy. I made accommodations for employee medical appointments and vacations. I increased benefits and salaries. I was the nicest guy around. Who would ever sue the nice guy? But I was wrong – very wrong in fact.
On my birthday of 2016 I was sent a letter from my State Legal Board saying a former employee was claiming she was terminated because of her mental health which made her disabled. I had wrongly let someone go who was disabled? After the shock and a few pieces of birthday cake, I located an attorney and began the process of disputing the claim.
As of today, I spent $6000 dollars, one appeal, and countless hours worrying about what could happen. In the end, the claim was dropped with no marks on my record and all I lost was sleep and money.
From this recent experience I learned two important lessons.
1) Nice guys do get sued, and actually more often. When you’re the nice guy you often provide everything your employees want. You make sacrifices and adjustments – in fact, you’re better than Santa Claus. If things don’t work out, these employees just want to keep getting at any cost. Keep an employee manual and stick to it. If someone breaks an agreement, hold them accountable. It doesn’t hurt to be a nice guy, just be a nice guy who follows all the rules. It’s good to be nice, but more important to be fair.
2) Everyone needs an Employment Attorney. I thought an attorney was only needed when problems arise, but just like in dentistry, a good Employment Attorney can provide preventative care to keep you out of trouble. A wise old dentist once told me, “When things don’t work out, just call it education.” This past year, with my education budget I got a live course in employment, handbooks, and dealing with disgruntled employees.
Aaron Layton, DDS, is a 2010 graduate of Indiana University. He completed three years working at a large group practice in Vermont before buying his own practice in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he currently works and resides with his wife and their four children.