Managing employees in a health care office, or any environment for that matter, is not the carefree duty we all seem to feel, or act as if, it should be.

Hire someone who is nice with a good resume, tell them what to do, pay them fair and then let the machine run, right? Wrong, unfortunately. As most of us will learn through often painful experiences, hiring and managing good employees takes much more time and effort than we ever think it will – unless we are okay with mediocrity.

And even when a mediocre employee gets you by with ‘good enough,’ that person will not only never improve, that employee will naturally devolve from a mediocre employee into an ineffective employee in no time. Entropy wins again and your business suffers.

Sound familiar?

And while there are many factors leading to this descent into mediocrity, today we will limit the focus to one phenomenon that alone can significantly impact your employee performance.

It’s called ‘Positional Conformity.’ And you need to understand what it is, how to avoid it and how to correct it assuming some of your employees are already afflicted with this productivity killing mindset.

Positional Conformity is the process by which an employee will organize and complete their assigned duties in a way that fills all hours of their shift, and purposely never have room for anything additional.

We’ve all encountered it. Front desk is flowing along normally, has for months, then you decide to add a new task or function to their position, and you are all a sudden hearing how they are too busy for this. How there is no way they will have the time to implement these new changes or duties and so on.

Some staff members will gladly take on the new task and challenge but many will not. And they may not even verbally express their discontent about the ‘change’ in their position. It may be express through sloppy work or a change in attitude.

I will lead by saying it is much more difficult to fix it in existing employees than it is to avoid it with a new hire.  

Whatever set of duties, rules, expectations, etc., that you initially place in front of the employee from the start (as long as these thing are fully explained and understood) will likely create the highest functioning bar this employee will ever hit.

Of course, when they are newly hired, they will agree to whatever you set as their duties. Afterall, they don’t know any different otherwise. However, within a relatively short period of time, most employees will conform to those set of duties to the extent that adding additional tasks or responsibilities will often result in resistance at best, and sabotage at worst.

So what is the solution?

The obvious solution is to understand how to hire better people from the start.

Be on the lookout for Dr. Stegall’s new training on How to Find, Interview and Hire Exceptional Employees

It’s also true that not every employee is wired this way. Every now and then we hire an outlier, a unicorn, that is always amenable, always positive and always willing to do what it takes to make the business better.  Keep these people, forever (and Dr. Stegall’s system will teach you how to find, hire and motivate this super-employees).

But, in lieu of those unicorn employees the absolute best way to control this affliction of ‘Positional Conformity’ is to purposefully head it off at the pass.

First of all, plan for it, essentially expect it. To accomplish this you must have down, in writing, every possible time and duty altering scenario that could befall the position from the start. This is no easy task, I realize. But even if you just make sure the employee is aware and acknowledges that there will be changes and additional duties as a core part of their job as things progress – at least that is a start.

Secondly, you can’t just type this out and present it to them and check back 6 months later and start implementing changes. Make it a part of your weekly system and training with them. As you add duties keep bringing up that initial agreement (annoy them with the frequency that you bring it up if need be) so that they are always aware that they are not to become complacent in their position.

Leading your meetings with a simple phrase can help: “As we have discussed, all of our positions are ever evolving just as our business is, just as all business are. We must always be updating, adapting and changing if we want to grow.”

Whether it be for associate DC, MD or PT, front desk, CA or billing staff, the same affliction can affect them all. If you define tasks and yet do not define that the tasks can change or increase as the business evolves, then you are leaving the door open for Positional Conformity to set in. However with just a little bit of planning you will go far to keep this from placing unwanted stress on you and your practice.

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