Leadership can make or break a rehab therapy clinic's success. Employee turnover alone is an incredibly expensive problem and, as the saying goes, employees don't leave bad jobs—they leave bad bosses. In a patient care environment, though, poor management impacts more than just therapist satisfaction. It affects the entire clinic culture as well as patients' ability to achieve quality outcomes.
So, what are some signs—specifically, verbal signs—that a manager is undermining the sense of teamwork in their clinic? And what are more effective ways to get their point across?
1. “You’re not working hard enough.”
While numbers don’t lie, they also don’t tell the whole story. With more data at their fingertips than ever before, it’s easy for a clinic manager to get an instant overview of what’s happening in a practice. A bad manager, however, may make snap judgements based on what they see before getting to the root of the issue. This can fuel resentment among staff, making them feel like their work will never measure up and that they’re true value isn’t being seen.
The reality is that what looks good on paper may not be indicative of how therapists are actually performing—or, more importantly, what they’re patients think of them.
Employees are motivated by positive reinforcement and recognition, not criticism. That said, there will inevitably be problems that need to be addressed. But instead of making assumptions based on data, a good manager chats with staff to get the whole picture:
- Have new cleaning protocols slowed them down?
- Are they weighed down with a high number of complex treatment plans?
- Do they have unknown struggles impacting their productivity?
- Are they satisfied with their job?
2. “Did you hear about so-and-so?”
Bad managers often thrive on juicy office gossip. Professional managers, however, treat it like poison and stay as far away from it as possible. They know gossip only brings down morale and fosters exclusivity and negativity. Instead of wading into the quagmire, managers should:
- Encourage therapists to be honest, but avoid taking sides.
- Listen without being judgmental or jumping to conclusions.
- Avoid discussing disputes with uninvolved parties.
- Work with the team to avoid similar problems in the future.
- Change the dialogue when a conversation about an employee turns negative by mentioning one of their strengths or admirable qualities.
If this sounds like disciplined work, it is. But when managers take the lead in shutting down toxic and negative conversations, the rest of the team will follow suit.
3. “It’s my way or the highway.”
Ruling with an iron fist is one approach to leadership—but it isn’t a very useful one. When bad managers use fear and intimidation tactics, they destroy trust and loyalty among staff. This approach leads to high turnover rates and difficulties recruiting top talent.
Instead, effective managers know that teamwork makes the dream work. They encourage a variety of ideas and take a collaborative approach. When managers are accessible and approachable, therapists feel heard and valued. Best of all, when a good manager is open to their team’s ideas they will gain valuable insights and boost overall clinic morale.
4. “Leave your personal life at home.”
Employees should be able to bring their whole selves to work. While it’s true there is a time and place for discussing personal matters (e.g., not during a patient session), healthcare professionals are humans at the end of the day. And as such, they have real issues that will inevitably impact their demeanor at work.
Rather than shutting these conversations down, good managers place an emphasis on health and wellbeing in a practice—which centers on leading with compassion, flexibility, and empathy. In the long run, this approach can help employees feel truly seen, which can in turn mitigate therapist burnout and optimize productivity
5. “I’m too busy, handle it yourself.”
Picture this: it’s the middle of the workday. A therapist pops into the manager’s office with an important question about a patient issue. Feeling overwhelmed with their own work, the manager waves them away, telling the therapist to handle it themselves. After apologizing for bothering the manager, the therapist has to make it to their next appointment, leaving the patient problem unresolved.
All managers may feel pulled in several directions at once from time to time. But, the mark of a good manager is that they make a concerted effort to be available to their therapists—even during inopportune times. After all, part of being a manager is being willing to offer hands-on help to employees so they have the knowledge, resources, and support required to achieve their full potential—and provide the best patient care possible.
How have you improved communication in your clinic? Let us know in the comments below—we’d love to learn from you!