Ask Shawn: 'My first task as a new practice manager is to fire someone. Help!'

February 21, 2017
Shawn G. McVey, MA, MSW
Shawn G. McVey, MA, MSW

Shawn McVey, MA, MSW, is owner of McVey Management Solutions (formerly IVMS), a consulting business that specializes in improving health care delivery systems and correcting workplace culture. He is also a member of the Firstline and Veterinary Economics editorial advisory boards. He regularly leads a range of practice management sessions at the Fetch dvm360 conferences.

Dont panic. Practice management guru Shawn McVey has advice for keeping things professional instead of personal.

Firstline reader recently sent us the following question for CVC educator Shawn McVey, MA, MSW:

Hi Shawn,

I've worked at the same veterinary clinic for 13 years and was recently promoted to the practice manager position. My first task is to fire a technician who has been on probation for unprofessional work habits that haven't improved. Can you provide some pointers on what I should say during the termination meeting?

Answer: First things first, check your records, McVey says. Has the employee's behavior been thoroughly documented? Documentation is key because it can help you separate the behavior from the way you feel about the behavior.

If you do have detailed records, McVey offers the following conversation starter: “If I haven't made this clear to you before, I'm very sorry, but I want to make it clear to you now. We are terminating your employment for the following reasons…”-and then list the behaviors (not your feelings about the behaviors).

If you don't have any of the employee's unacceptable actions on record, it will be difficult to immediately terminate employment, McVey says. Instead, give the employee a warning and start documenting behavior until you're able to have a conversation based on facts instead of feelings.