Ask Katie: How do I handle an underperforming employee?

May 15, 2018
Katie Adams, CVPM
Katie Adams, CVPM

Katie Adams, CVPM, is owner and management consultant at Agrygation Consulting.

Our resident veterinary practice management expert Katie Adams, CVPM, counsels a new practice owner on how to handle an overpaid and ineffective employee.

shutterstock.comQ:  I am a new owner, and I purchased an existing practice. One of the staff members who came with the practice is overpaid and underperforming. But she's been with the practice for 15 years and clients love her. What should I do?

A:  First of all, congratulations on your new practice! This is such an exciting time for you. I imagine that your head is filled with a myriad of ideas for how to make the practice your own and take it to new heights.

As a new owner, it's important to avoid alienating existing team members, who are likely already feeling a little uneasy about the transition. That said, it's just as important for the team to be on board with your vision and values. If they aren't, now is the time to part ways. 

Schedule a meeting with your underperformer and review her job description with her. If there isn't already one in place, your first order of business is to create one for every member of your team. Be sure to acknowledge her rapport with clients and her dedication to the practice. 

Describe the areas where you need to see improvement, stating specific expectations. Create a performance improvement plan where you outline expectations and check-in dates, at 30, 60 and 90 days for example.  Generally speaking, if team members don't make the changes you need within 90 days, it's not going to happen, and it's time to part ways.

This is a challenge you're facing an underperforming team member with a sweet personality. In this particular case, perhaps this employee would make a great client liaison. You may be able to keep her on part time at the same rate or full time at a lower rate and put her in a position doing what she does best!

Katie Adams, CVPM, is director of Curriculum Development at IGNITE Veterinary Solutions. Got a question for Katie? Email us at