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Submitted by KateM on


I am the co-owner and managing partner of a 30-employee medical practice.  Today my practice administrator received the following paper in her inbox:

"As we are sure you know, Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year.  Per the employee handbook this is a holiday that we "recognize."  The employee handbook also states "Floating holidays will be scheduled so as to provide eligible employees with extended weekends, when possible, by combining them with named holidays."  We are proposing that we take advantage of Friday, July 3rd, 2015 as a floating holiday.  We have looked ahead at this date and there are only a few appointments scheduled thus far.  These appointments do not appear to be of an urgent nature, and can likely be rescheduled.  Please consider this proposal as we, the [Practice] family, would LOVE to spend any extra time we can get with our families." 

-- followed by 2 dozen signatures.

As a point of clarification, our employee handbook says, "[Practice] may schedule an additional two to four floating holidays each year. For employees eligible for paid holidays, these will be paid time off.  (Benefit Hours need not be used.) Floating holidays will be scheduled so as to provide eligible employees with extended weekends, when possible, by combining them with named holidays."   Historically we have done this, although primarily during the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's triad.  However, it would not be unreasonable to make July 3rd a floating holiday, and many of my colleagues in similar practices have made that decision for their practices.  So it's not primarily a financial or patient flow concern to me.

I do feel uncomfortable, though, by the request, because:

* The request seems framed in a “protest petition” format, although it was very nicely and politely worded.  

* It was dropped off in an inbox - no one had the guts to sit down with us and pitch their proposal.  It also means that our response will necessarily have to be broadcast because no one is speaking for the group who signed it.  That makes

* Three of our employed physicians also signed it.  Even if they don’t have the final word on scheduling decisions, they represent practice leadership to the staff.  Joining in on a request of this nature seems somewhat against Tom Hanks’ admonishment in Saving Private Ryan to complain up discreetly, not to participate in a complaint of those below you in the food chain.  I would have hoped they would have brought their schedule ideas to the administrative meeting we have every week, rather than making their request known in this way.

* If we grant the request, I do not want to set a precedent with further petitions being dropped off to change the dress code, give everyone a raise, provide free dental insurance, etc.

Am I overreacting?



Smacquarrie's picture

I understand your concerns, and I believe that many companies out there have taken the proposed stance on holidays which fall on a weekend. I will say that my company looks at the coming years and plans these out ahead of time so that they can publish our effective holidays for planning purposes.
Granting the 3rd this year or not is ultimately up to you and the other partners.
You may want to "take it under advisement" for next year's planning.
As for those senior people who signed this, I would believe that this warrants a closed door meeting to better understand why they did not feel it prudent to take this to the administration directly. You may have one or two (possibly even yourself) people who come across as very strong willed instead of open to discussion.
It provides a great learning tool for yourself and them to discus this.

mrreliable's picture

That is an annoying means of making a statement. I would be concerned as well.

I also have the same concern as Mac that this could be a result of the company culture rather than a well-orchestrated coup pulled off by a sneaky master of political gamesmanship. The fact that so many people went along with it, including key players, suggests something with communication needs fixing.

It's true that you have to protect your company from damage done when someone starts sneaking around and getting everyone worked up behind your back. But this seems more like a general mutiny, which won't be fixed by coming down with a heavy hand. If I was in your situation, I wouldn't feel I had much choice but to give them their weekend.

Not long ago when I took a couple days off, my staff decided to literally rearrange the furniture and reorganize the archive files. The ringleader sort of sheepishly fessed up to having gotten the idea going and gave me her rationale. Since I agreed with the rationale and would have approved it if I'd have been asked, I decided to go along with it, with some light-hearted comments and ribbing. However, I did make it clear in a serious way that next time I wouldn't be so understanding if the same type of thing happened.

I think you're looking at a symptom of something that needs fixing. Perhaps at a general meeting, ask them why they felt the need to do all this quietly in the bushes instead of feeling comfortable talking about it face-to-face.

AllBusiness's picture

I agree that this action points to a larger question of company culture, communication and trust.  But I wouldn't go so far as to characterize it as a "mutiny."  Sounds like it was a politely-worded, written request, in which the business needs were definitely considered. That's very diferent than, say, a wave of employees suddenly calling in "sick" on the day before a holiday.

Why did the senior staff not feel comfortable in bringing up the request in person?  Is there room in your regular meetings for this kind of discussion?  If not, can you make room?  It's difficult, but as a leader, you need to ask yourself if you're setting the example--including communication style--that you'd like others to follow.  

Good luck!  Let us know what you decide.

ashdenver's picture

You indicated 30 employees and 2 dozen signatures.  You could offer three-day weekends to anyone who did NOT sign the petition to prove a point!  (I don't recommend this but I think the absence of their signatures ought to count for something - assuming they were given the opportunity to sign the petition and deliberately chose not to partake.)

I wouldn't punish anyone for partaking. I also wouldn't acquiesce to the petition either.

If there are already patients scheduled for July 3rd, I would not under any circumstances consider inconveniencing the patients for this. You might close bookings for that day and have a skeleton crew to attend to those patients already on the books but I would not dream of inconveniencing patients as a result of such cowardly tomfoolery. (I sound like I'm 80 yrs old, I know.)

Speaking from personal experience, either I've made my appointment months in advance and have worked everything else leading up to date/time that around the appointment or I've scheduled it fairly recently in short-order which suggests an aura of urgency - being told to disrupt my long-standing plans or to wait longer to address something I feel is fairly urgent because of this "mutiny" is quite rude.

If it were me, I would say:

The office will remain open on Friday July 3rd. We are not the kind of practice that inconveniences patients for our own self-interests so we will not reschedule patients who have already scheduled an appointment. The partners, however, will consider a reduced staff for the day so long as all pertinent areas are covered. (They should work that out for themselves to determine who's needed, who's plans are more pressing, etc.)

The practice would not normally consider July 3rd a floating holiday so anyone who plans to take that day off would need to use Benefit Hours. Moving forward for other holidays, we encourage you to make direct suggestions upward within your work areas so that the physicians (and whomever else attends) may bring the discussion to the weekly administration meeting.

This practice wants only the best for its patients and staff. As such, face-to-face communication is known to establish more trust and credibility; it is more productive and effective than any other type of communication. If you have thoughts, ideas, suggestions, concerns, I encourage you to speak with us (whomever you designate: physicians, partners, supervisors, etc.) directly so that we can have a two-way dialogue and seek the best outcome for everyone concerned..

I would definitely provide (private) feedback to the physicians about how/why they acted inappropriately.

I would also discuss the topic of the petition in any O3's regularly held. For me, it's less about the content and more about the method of approach and the group mentality.

Just my two cents worth.

KateM's picture
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Some followup:
1) We met privately with each of the physicians who signed it. They agreed their involvement was inappropriate (especially given one of them has Fridays off anyway and doesn't affect her schedule in the slightest!). They thought that we were aware of the petition already and that the signatures were a way of the employees "thanking us in advance" (like a thank you card before you've given the birthday gift?!?) They agreed that our weekly admin meeting would have been a more appropriate way for them to bring schedule concerns to us.
2) We have regular O3s with all the signatories; none of them had even mentioned the upcoming schedule to their supervisors. We indicated politely to each of the signatories that, going forward, they make their suggestions directly to their supervisor(s) rather than trying the petition approach. We pointed out that if each individual person had had a discussion with their supervisor about the schedule, rather than signing a paper, that would have had the same impact of the paper, and have been much better received, with the opportunity to discuss the request.
3) The few patients on the schedule will be seen in the office by the physician on call (, and we'll be closed for additional appointments.

ashdenver's picture

"They thought that we were aware of the petition already and that the signatures were a way of the employees "thanking us in advance" (like a thank you card before you've given the birthday gift?!?)"


That's a good one! They could work for a television news channel with that level of spin! Glad to hear that a mutiny was avoided and things are working themselves out. Hopefully your Friday will be largely smooth-sailing and short.