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by Our manager in practice
14 May 2008

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When the manager’s away, tears and tantrums come out to play

I said I would keep you updated about how looking after two surgeries progresses, so …

Initially, all seemed to be going well – too well, in fact, as it now appears. When I started settling in, there didn’t appear to be much difference between my new practice and my “home” practice. In fact, I was just beginning to see what might need doing in the new one, when I made the mistake of going away for two days on holiday!

Why is it that when left alone, something always seems to flare up between the staff? I don’t feel that I am constantly averting disasters when I am here, so why do they happen when I’m not? (If anyone has an answer please let us all know!)

Of course, when something does happen when you are away, the matter ends up with the attention of the partners immediately, and they panic … and then it is suddenly a major catastrophe rather than something sorted fairly easily.

I came back from a lovely two days away to find there had been significant problems in both surgeries, both involving tears and tantrums and both escalated in importance by the partners involved.

After almost a week’s worth of pouring oil later, I have almost got to the bottom of the problems – unfortunately in one case far deeper than I realised (so perhaps the partners were right – don’t you hate it when that happens?).

Keeping everyone happy is another aspect to the job that takes an inordinate amount of time – but well worth it. Having the team running well is of course the foundation for everything that we do. Hopefully we will soon be on an even keel again, in both teams.

The intriguing bit for me is whether this is purely coincidental, or does it have anything to do with me managing two practices? Is this the staff “trying it on” or would this have been a problem anyway?

It would appear that the problems have not just appeared since the beginning of April, but have longer-term origins, but it does make me wonder! It’s enough to make me reconsider taking any more holiday this year …

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

“In my experience staff disputes can be handled appropriately as long as the partners don’t get involved, they make a bad situation worse, especially in an all-female surgery. (We women are not known for our ability to keep quiet always). I try (and try) to keep things on an even keel by always talking to staff, asking how they are (gives them an opening) and thanking them for their help everyday. There will always be one who sneers at this or tries to ‘wind up’ collegues, I find the best
thing to do is to include them in everything, ask their opinion and, if the worst comes to the worst, go down the warning road, depends if the staff member has a useful part to play or just uses the practice as a bit of social life. In that case, let things take their course as long as they do the work, but let them know in no uncertain terms that you know what they are up to. They get fed up of the battle in the end and move on. Smile a lot, it worries people” – Joyce, Brighton

“I think there will always be staff disputes – a manager has to have ears and eyes open all of the time to try and minimise any disruption to the team – she/he needs to hear rumblings and mumblings and try and resolve issues before they are blown out of all proportion – very difficult when you are away – dread  coming back to a list of problems when go away on holiday but hey ho all in ‘the life of a practice manager'” – Stephanie Pidgen, Grimsby

“Things always flare up when you are away – whether it is an existing problem or a new one – this is probably because there is no one else there for them to sound off to. The next thing you know someone says something to someone else it gets back to the person concerned and away you go. Of course the partners get wind of it but instead of calming things down and referring them back to the PM on their return they try to “help” (uh oh!!!)” – Elaine Handover, Medway

“I run a practice with a branch surgery and do feel we have to be ‘inhouse’ to stop any minor dispute being major, no one else seems to be able to do that. So do worry when I’m away as to what I will come back to but remind the staff before I go that I am only away for x number of days and will speak to them on return if there is anything. We need holidays probably more than most in the surgery to be able to deal with any situations thrown at us” – Diane Fox, Yorkshire

“Hell yes! I concur that things flare up when either I or my  deputy are away. The one thing that you cannot do is to ignore matters as I have learned to my cost so now it is a case of immediately getting people together to sort it out. Simple – yes. Effective in getting people to like and respect each other – who knows? Ultimately you can only control what you yourself can  control and in thes ecases that is the work itself. Do not try to get harmony and friendliness where it patently is unachievable because of differing personalities” – Dave Holmes, Grimsby