I first “met” Licensed Professional Counselor Camille McDaniel when I was hanging out on the Georgia Therapists’ Network. The thing that first caught my eye is that her involvement there was thoughtful and supportive of her peers. I’ve been following Camille for a while now watching her build a really useful blog for entrepreneurial counselors. When I learned that she had hired her mother as her office manager, I had to know more. That inquiry has led to Camille graciously guest posting today on terminating an employee in your office.
(If you are interested in writing a guest post, check out the guidelines here.)
A Guest Post by Camille McDaniel, LPC, NCC, CPCS
I once read somewhere that termination is not something you do to someone; it’s something you do for someone. This stuck with me and it will be important later in this blog post.
“You’re Fired!” The phrase is one we have heard on television, read in print, or maybe experienced personally. It brings up thoughts of a mean aggressor being unfair to a less powerful person who is just trying to make money to feed their family.
Rarely, do we see images of a boss scared to terminate their employee due to fear of seeming mean, being scared of the employees reaction, or the fear that employees will tarnish the reputation of that private practice.
However, these are some of the reasons I have heard for counseling colleagues keeping silent or passive when it comes to this management task. I admit I have had some hesitation when I needed to take this step with clinicians in my own practice. Let’s take a look at what it means to terminate an employee and how to get it done!
Weeds in Your Practice
You are the master gardener of your private practice. You help to plant seeds of empowerment with employees and clients, you water those seeds with patience, kindness, and firmness, and you help to identify weeds that are strangling the life out of your private practice.
Weeds can represent many things, not just client challenges within the counseling session.
Weeds can present in the following forms:
- The apathetic receptionist whose negative presentation can be felt through the phone and in person,
- The clinician who has their client waiting because they always come to the office 5-10 minutes late for counseling sessions,
- The clinician who doesn’t have a single note in many of their client files and ignores your requests to get caught up, or
- The clinician who attracts clients but can’t seem to keep them beyond 2-3 sessions and you think it may be their clinical skills.
What You Need to Know and Do
When you decide to terminate someone from your practice, you are saying I have identified a weed that needs to be pulled. Terminating an employee is not just doing something to someone. You are doing this for the health of your practice, any clients that may frequent your practice, and any referral sources who put their confidence in the quality of your services.
When the day comes to terminate your employee, you want to make sure you have observed a few important practices. This will help to make sure you are terminating lawfully. (Some information was obtained from the Small Business Administration.)
- Communicate and document along the way. If the person is not performing job duties or following the policies established in the contract they signed, make sure you have shared these specific issues with the individual and documented it in their personnel file before terminating.
- Have a witness. If you have reason to believe the person being terminated might escalate, have another person in the room with you as a witness and help.
- Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Terminating an employee shouldn’t drag on. You want to share the concerns that were not corrected, how this impacts the practice as a whole, and the action that must be taken i.e. termination.
- Use active listening. It’s natural for the employee to want to vent. Just listen for a moment and let them release the mixed emotions that are likely coming up. Then gently bring it to a close.
- Know exactly what you need to collect from the employee. Make sure to get all copies of keys, files, and any other property that the employee may possess. Change access to calendars and billing.
- Maintain continuity of care. Have a list of referrals available within your practice or elsewhere for clients to continue to receive care, after their therapist is gone. You may call them to explainin your sorrow for the departure of their therapist and offer other options for continuing counseling within the group or provide them with outside referrals.
- Know when it’s illegal to terminate an employee. Federal anti-discrimination laws prevent employers from firing because of age, race, gender, religion or disability. You also can’t fire employees for complaining about any illegal activity, or exercising their legal rights including family medical leave, military leave, time off to vote or serve on a jury.
- Know when you have to pay. Employers are not required by federal law to immediately give former employees their final paycheck. Some states, however, may require immediate payment. Contact your State Labor Office for information on requirements in your state.
Final Notes on Terminating Your Employee
If the person you are terminating holds a position where they coordinate many daily tasks such as your billing and scheduling, make sure you first know exactly what they do. That includes knowing
- the systems they interact with,
- the passwords they have access to,
- whether their name is primary on any important services you have, and
- that they cannot remotely access any of your systems once terminated.
Consider this to be a cautionary tale . . . . I recently heard about a psychologist who, after over two decades in practice, had a major setback when a disgruntled secretary turned his practice operations upside down and he didn’t know half of what she had access to in the first place.
Have you ever had to terminate an employee in your practice? Or, have you ever been terminated from employment? Drop in today to share what you learned from the experience so that we can better serve our selves, our clients, and our businesses, too.
About the Author: Camille McDaniel, LPC, NCC, CPCS is the founder and director of Healing Psychotherapy Practices of Georgia, LLC in Kennesaw, Georgia. She is also the creator of an online business called The Counselor Entrepreneur. You can find more about her work at http://www.CamilleMcDaniel.com.