Thursday Troubleshooter: I can't justify the payraise my employee wants

My employee has become too demanding regarding a payraise. Help!

Feb 28th, 2013
Troubleshooter Feb 28

QUESTION:
I’m a dentist, and my treatment coordinator of several years is asking for a 20% raise. She is currently working 28 hours a week and does a good job at what she is doing. My collection rate is 100% and my treatment acceptance is 71%. I do value her but I can't justify that kind of increase in pay anymore. I feel that she has reached her maximum pay when it comes to her job title. I have offered to increase her hours to full time and transition her to an office manager, which would increase her pay (but not by 20%) and increase her bonus to 15%. She refuses to work full-time, although she is willing to take on more responsibilities.

I don't feel that she’ll be able to handle the increase in duties keeping the hours she works. She already complains about not having enough time to get her work done. I’m torn because she’s been with the practice for so long, knows the patients and the system and how my business runs, but I think that even with an industry standard raise of 3% she will not be happy. Every year when I hold her review she is not happy with her raises, and they have all been increases ranging from 13% to 23%!

This woman does have some downsides. She is not very coachable, she requires a lot of my time when it comes to managing her needs, and she refuses to take CE courses that require long commutes. Last time I took her to a CE course with a one-hour commute, she complained that she didn't get paid for the travel time and refused to go to another course if it was so far away. That was the last CE course I took her to. She also resists change, especially when it comes to new technology or a new system that requires her to do more work. On the upside, she is professional, can work on her own, and has good customer service. Please help.


ANSWER FROM ROBIN MORRISON, president and founder of Dental Consultant Connection
I can see where this issue can be a very big concern. On one hand, your treatment coordinator is performing well, gaining good case acceptance, has good customer service, and is professional. It appears she has the skill set required for her position, but she obviously lacks motivation. Although you do not state her compensation, it is likely she feels underpaid and underappreciated, thereby demonstrating a less than enthusiastic attitude. In my opinion, she is making a big statement by not wanting to attend CE courses and being resistant to change and coaching. It sounds as though you are at a stalemate. With that said, it is your practice and you’re in it for the long haul. I recommend a meeting between the two of you in which you share your expectations going forward, and that her poor attitude and unwillingness to progress will no longer be acceptable. Additionally, I encourage you to reevaluate her salary and contribution to your practice. Your meeting will ideally end with a compromise by both of you with a very positive outcome. If it does not, it is time to recruit a new treatment coordinator. Retaining an unhappy team member is detrimental to your practice.

ANSWER FROM LOIS BANTA, owner and CEO of Banta Consulting, Inc.
Several things caught my attention in your dilemma with this employee. Although I know you can appreciate her collection percentage, this should not be the sole determining factor in a salary increase. Careful attention needs to be paid to your overhead budget, the willingness for this team member to be a team player, which it does not sound like she is, and her unwillingness to attend CE classes with you. It sounds like you really need a person in this position who can work full time, participate fully in the practice, and be able to maintain a positive attitude. My initial advice is to replace this team member with one who is fully dedicated to your practice and your patients. Let her find a new job that meets her needs, and you find a new and enthusiastic team member who can meet the practice needs.

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