Give your Elephant a Name
It happens all over the country, every day to 2/3 of all businesses. Some business owners are aware of it … others may discover it soon. What is it that’s happening? There is a rogue employee that has decided to keep a bit of extra funds out of the office’s bank account and put it into his/her own account. Let’s take it out and give it a name – it’s called fraud, misappropriation of funds…embezzlement!
Has embezzlement occurred in your practice? If it has, chances are there is a lot of confusion and discord happening in the office and no one knows what to do. When something like this occurs it has a profound effect on the entire practice. Most people do not know what to do or even where to start.
Depending on how the embezzlement was found and where you are in the process, there are many steps that will need to be taken:
There will be an investigation,
The embezzler may/will be let go
The police are called
The prosecutor will be contacted
All kinds of craziness begins happening within the practice walls.
What is not addressed and quite often never talked about is how this awful event affects the dynamics of the team. The systems in the office will need to be reviewed and refined. There are many emotions occurring that no one knows how to handle, nor has anyone taken the time to consider.
It’s high time we pulled the elephant out from under the rug and begin the conversation. What emotions are associated with the embezzlement?
DISTRUST—and rightfully so…if you are the doctor, someone just stole your money. For the doctor or team members, you just found out a trusted friend has stolen money from your place of business. This is very disconcerting; something you do not want to believe is possible. No one trusts anyone nor does anyone feel trusted.
SADNESS—there is a sense of loss in the practice. Someone that has been a co-worker and quite possibly a friend is now gone. More than likely it was the office go-to person, so the feeling of loss is prevalent.
CONFUSION—What do you do now? How will you find out how much money was taken? How it was taken? How will you prevent it from happening again? Which patient accounts were affected? How will I correct the errors?
FEAR— could this happen again? What if someone else is stealing? Or starts stealing? How will I know? It is the fear of the unknown because you never thought this would happen in the first place.
ANGER—you are mad! Of course you are! Someone stole your hard earned money. Everyone thinks this just pertains to the doctor, but it really affects everyone. For the team members…maybe there could have been a bonus or bigger bonus if not for this embezzler; there may have been more money for a raise; you may have been able to get that new equipment you all would like to have in the office. It truly affects everyone!
EMBARRASSMENT—you really do not want anyone to know because it looks like you were not taking care of your business. Could you have done something to prevent it? The fact is, this is happening in 3 out of 5 dental offices across the country. You are not alone. Don’t be embarrassed.
VULNERABILITY—you never thought this person would be capable of committing a crime. How could you not see it? What else is happening that you do not know about?
The fraud, misappropriations of funds… the embezzlement has happened. This is the time for the entire team to lock arms and tackle the fear, sadness, confusion and anger together. There will be more questions than answers at first and the team needs to know how to explain to patients where the missing employee went, why the patient has a balance when they swear that they paid on their account. The elephant needs to be front and center in all team meetings. Together you can handle all the craziness that is about to take place, while you still focus on patient care. Contact us at email@example.com if you feel you could use some help.
Janice Janssen, RDH, CFE, Consultant
At age 14, Janice Janssen got an after-school job working for her dentist. Twenty-something years later, she is the co-founder of Global Team Solutions and an expert in practice consulting.
Besides hands-on experience, Janice has gained professional recognition for her hard work and commitment to excellence. She is co-author of OMG! Office Management Guide, the “bible” used in GTS training workshops. She is a member of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants (ADMC), and is a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), which positions her as an expert in educating dentists to deter fraud and embezzlement in their practice.
Janice can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org