Staff Management

The Benefit of Frequent Staff “Check-Ins”

By Cheryl G. Murphy, OD

June 20, 2018

Employed ODs may worry when the practice owner makes frequent “check-ins,” or informal updates on employee performance, but it may be a good sign. It shows that the practice leader is concerned that the OD is both serving patients well, and thriving themselves, in the office.

Frequent check-ins can mean an employer values that employee, wants their feedback and sincerely wants to help them. This new method of performance management is currently trending, and in many industries, it is replacing the now-perhaps-less-favorable annual performance review.

After almost 15 years of practicing optometry as an employed optometrist, I have had my share of jobs (and employers), and I can now easily spot major differences in how practices are run. One of the things I have noticed is that some bosses are “hands-off”in their managerial style while others are very much “hands-on.”

By that I mean that it seems like some bosses barely speak to their employed doctors, especially if they don’t work with them on the same day, while other employers make it a point to keep constant lines of communication open with employees, giving them relentless feedback and pointers.

I’m not saying that one management style is better than the other. Each have their advantages and disadvantages, but I do feel a happy medium exists. While it is probably true that no one enjoys being completely ignored, and never encouraged or praised, being micromanaged and constantly critiqued can be equally offensive.

If I had to choose one, in my experience, I have found it kind of nice to be treated as a “low-maintenance” employee by a “hands-off” boss under the right circumstances. To me that means the owning doctor has put their faith in me, my judgement and the way I practice, and they know that I will work to the best of my ability to do the right thing, not only for the patient, but for the practice as well.

However, I have also had employers who are a little more “hands on,”and who go out of their way to check in on me, and ask me how things are going. While the “hands-on” approach can be unnerving at first, especially if you were formerly treated as a “low maintenance employee” by a “hands off” employer, it turns out, frequent check-ins should be seen as a good thing.

Here are three positive reasons why your boss may be checking in on you more frequently than you expect:

They Like You (and Want to Retain You)
The Wall Street Journal suggests that one way to ensure employee retention is to “hold regular meetings in which employees can offer ideas and ask questions [and] have an open-door policy that encourages employees to speak frankly with their managers without fear of repercussion.”

Additionally, a March 2018 article in Business Insider said that we as employees should view frequent, one-on-one pow-wows with our bosses in a positive light. The article said that “bosses will go out of their way to check on the workers they like. They’ll ask about your happiness, whether or not you’re planning to leave, and how the company can keep you on.” They go on to assure employees that by bosses initiating frequent conversations with you, they aren’t “interrogating you, they’re [simply] proactively figuring out what steps they’ll need to take to retain you.”

They Value Your Opinion (and Want Feedback or Advice)
What if your boss knows you are happy with your current position, but still checks in on you a lot? It may be because they want your input or opinion. Business Insider says that “if [your employer] not only checks in with you, but asks for your feedback on how things are run, this may be a good sign that “you’re a good fit and that your employer respects you and your opinions.” The article goes on to say that if your boss often asks your input in one-on-one meetings or in group meetings, and “leaves plenty of time for you to talk and then responds favorably to what you say,” that is a definite good sign that they like you and value your opinion.

You should use these opportunities to make small suggestions on how things could be improved in the practice or with patient care. However, it is important to remember to pick your battles and not nitpick every little thing you see wrong with the practice. If you see an obvious way to improve patient flow, enhance organization, increase profitability or better educate patients, then go for it. Tactfully give them your opinion, or offer a suggestion. Even though you are not a partner or an owner, your opinion as a employed doctor matters, and I think a lot of employed doctors forget that, or think it’s not their place to say anything. It is your place to say something as long as you proceed with caution, and do so tactfully and respectfully.

They Want to Correct Something Quickly (to Immediately Enhance Performance)
Harvard Business Review (HBR) agrees that annual performance reviews are out, and that the “future of performance reviews are frequent, informal check-ins between managers and employees.” HBR says there is now a “performance management revolution” in which “70 percent of multinational companies are now moving towards more frequent, informal conversations between employees and managers [as opposed to annual reviews.”] The article say that it’s a “more effective way of reinforcing desired behaviors and managing performance.”

Just as you shouldn’t be afraid to give your employer feedback (especially if they ask) on ways that the practice could be improved, you should allow them to give you feedback. I once heard a manager say “feedback is a gift,” and if you look at it as such, and are open to seeing something from someone else’s perspective, it can only allow you to grow as a doctor even if you ultimately decide that you disagree with their suggestion.

It’s hard to fight that initial reaction of getting mad, or taking offense, to someone when they critique you, but try to see it as them giving you input which may lead you to re-think your method of practicing, or patient care, and re-evaluate yourself in your own mind. It may lead to a possible opportunity for you to change, update or grow as a doctor. And even if you decide that you will not adhere to their suggestion or advice, then at least you heard it with an open mind, and took it with a grain of salt.

Frequent Check-Ins Build Trust
I have to say, while frequent check-ins can be a little awkward at first, under the right circumstances they can be refreshing and help build trust. I can see how this is taking off in other industries and companies, as well, because no one, employee or employer, wants to wait until the end of the year to get hit with negative surprises at an annual review.

Why not discuss things, and correct any situation that needs correcting, sooner rather than later? It just makes sense, and I’m sure that if big-name companies are climbing onboard with this new, frequent review revolution, then it must make a lot of dollars and cents, too.

How do you review employees’ job performance? How often do you “check in” with employees? Do you agree with this revolution of frequent check-ins versus the more traditional annual performance review? How have you seen open communication help your business or retain your employees?


Cheryl G. Murphy, OD, practices in Glen Cove, Syosset and Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y. You can like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @murphyod. To contact her:

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