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Being the boss in the office is hard!

I guess the atmosphere that I’ve tried to create here is that I’m a friend first and a boss second, and probably an entertainer third. -Michael Scott, The Office

Being a boss is hard.  I can get patients to 20/15 almost with my eyes closed (I’ve literally done it).  I can diagnose AMD, fit toric multifocals, all sorts of stuff.  

But, managing staff, that’s a different story.  Why?  Well, I’m guessing few of the people reading this went to four years of Boss School, so our management knowledge and skills are probably lacking.  Managing staff is just not the same as managing patients.

Michael Scott thinks it’s best to be a friend first and boss second.

As much as I like Michael, I’m going to have to disagree.  I think it’s more like walking along the top of a fence – you must stay in the middle if you get too far one way, you’re going to get hurt!  

Difficult decisions need to be made that your staff is not going to like, especially if it requires them to do more work.  Typical employees are going to do what is needed to ensure they get their paycheck.  Rarely will they do more than that.  So, how do you motivate them?  How do you get them be excited about your practice?

Should I be their friend?

I thought at first it required me to be their friend.  I thought if my employees and I were buddies they would do anything I asked.  Relatively quickly, I realized this is not the case.  As much as an employee may like you, they are there for a paycheck.  Plus, if they perceive you as their friend, they will start expecting you to do friend stuff for them. 

So, now you try to become the boss and stop being friendly.  You demand work of your employees.  They may do what you ask, but it’s likely they will resent you.  

Best case scenario, they come to work, do adequate work but do little to build the practice.  Worst case scenarios, they either quit or start turning patients away because of their bad attitude.

Where does that leave me?

Is being their friend best?  Is being their boss best?  I think the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle.  You need to demand work of your employees, but the work you get out of them can be so much better if you create a friendly work environment.  The employees will gladly do their work.  They will speak fondly of you to patients.  And, the patients will notice your happy staff and it will grow your practice.  

One of the ways we create an enjoyable environment in our office is by noticing at least one thing staff members are doing well each day and calling them out on it.  Or, we will sometimes reward them with gift cards or cash. You can act as their boss by pointing out their great work, and you can act as their friend by giving them a gift. And, before you know it you have happy staff, happy patients, and a happy boss!

Nathan Broschinsky
Dr. Nate Broschinsky is from Logan, UT. He attended Utah State University, where he received his undergraduate degree in Exercise Science. After USU, he attended Midwestern University - Arizona College of Optometry in Glendale, AZ. He was part of the inaugural class of students through Midwestern in 2013. During optometry school, Nate held various student government positions and was club president of EnVision - Practice Excellence, the campus private practice club. After graduation, he moved to Boise, ID where he worked part time in four different practices: two private offices and two corporate offices. However, when the opportunity to return home came up, Nate and his wife packed up and moved back to Utah. After almost two years at another corporate office, the opportunity arose for Nate to become a practice owner. In August of 2015, he purchased his current office in Smithfield, UT. The practice was small (still is), so Nate splits his time between his private office and a lease location. Nate was nominated the 2016 Utah Young Optometrist of the Year. He is a Board Member of the Utah Optometric Association. He volunteers with the Lions Club and the Smithfield Chamber of Commerce.

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