Four signs that you should throw on the brakes

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If any of these phrases pop up when you're discussing the possibility of an employee working part time, beware. Part-time status won't solve anything if your employee's saying ...

If any of these phrases pop up when you're discussing the possibility of an employee working part time, beware. Part-time status won't solve anything if your employee's saying ...

1. "I'm stressed out."

The desire to reduce stress is the most common reason that people try to shift to part-time status. Unfortunately, people with this reason are the least likely to succeed, because the work remains the same. If a staff member or doctor is unhappy with the job itself, no amount of free time will change that. People spend their energy on their top priorities in life; if they don't have clear reasons for continuing their work in your practice—no matter how many hours they work—the job becomes a temporary event or simply a paycheck.

Dr. Ernest E. Ward Jr

In this case, the answer may not be reducing work hours but making the employee feel appreciated or understood. Look for alternative ways to reduce stress or refresh the employee's enthusiasm for the job. If you allow a frazzled team member to work less, I recommend establishing concrete rules and objectives.

2. "I'd like to pursue other interests."

An experienced staff member who suddenly switches gears to pursue an unrelated endeavor, such as attending nursing school, or splits her time between your practice and another job may be telling you that she's looking into another line of work. While I encourage my team members to improve themselves, I don't want to lose them to another profession or career if I can do anything about it!

Open communication and support will help you decide whether part-time employment will benefit the staff member and the practice. Only agree to a part-time situation if the arrangement benefits both of you.

3. "You're lucky to have me at all!"

An employee who sees her employment this way, and says so, is probably ready to leave. To avoid this situation, make sure your team members feel appreciated and let them know that their contributions count. People tend to go—and stay—where they feel wanted.

4. "It's got to be my way."

Let's say you develop a part-time policy and clearly define the boundaries and expectations, which include working some weekends. You allow a team member to cut back and work three days a week and every other weekend. This goes on for six months and then the staff member says, "I can't work weekends anymore." You probably should let this person go.

Yes, you need to treat part-time employees fairly. But don't be a doormat when they make demands, or your full-time staff will feel resentful.

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