How to manage without micromanaging

By Karen S. Schechter

Question: I am a solo physician in a busy family medicine practice. My office manager is complaining that I am micromanaging the office, that this affects staff morale, and that I should leave the management to her and just practice medicine. My opinion is that it is my practice and I should be able to do what I want. What are your thoughts on this disagreement?

Answer: This is a common interaction between physicians and their office managers, and there is no definitive way to resolve this type of conflict without knowing all of the facts.

Yes, if you own the practice, you should have a say in how it is run. But your level of involvement is at the heart of this issue.

The first question physicians in your situation should ask is why they feel the need to be so involved in the day-to-day management of the office. Is it because they do not have confidence in the office manager? Or does the physician have a need to be in control? Or is it a combination of both?

There could be several reasons for a doctor lacking confidence in an office manager’s abilities, including but not limited to poor financial performance, lack of trust, frequent staff turnover and low morale. Or it could be that their respective personalities are different enough to make it difficult for them to work together.

Then there are some people who just need to be in complete control. Our consultants are not psychologists or therapists and are in no position to discuss the possible reasons for this personality trait. But we have observed the impact of bosses like this, including decreased productivity (and revenues), staff members feeling unworthy, decreased staff morale and a situation where the physician feels like, and probably is, working 24/7 just to keep up.

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