My Office Manager Quit Suddenly. Now What?

Sooner or later, every practice owner receives this unwelcome news.  Your office manager, who is key to the smooth functioning of your office, is leaving.  A thousand thoughts race through your head.  Where will I ever find a replacement?  How can I replicate the amount of knowledge that will vanish with the incumbent?

Many practice owners fall into the trap that, when they find the perfect office manager, they assume that person will be in situ forever.  Cross-training other staff members never seems like a priority, nor does having any documentation of what the office manager does and knows.  Renowned consultant Chuck Blakeman talks about how the “tyranny of the urgent” often displaces the need for practices to undertake longer-term planning.

In the sudden urgency to replace a key person, one thing that often gets overlooked is considering the departure circumstances.  At Prosperident, we consider ourselves “professional cynics” and are inclined to look a bit more deeply at someone’s departure and ask what information might be missing.

Sometimes people quit for identifiably good reasons – their spouse took a new job in another city, or your office manager was offered a job with much more responsibility and pay.

At other times, the move seems to be “lateral,” or the reasons provided seem a bit spurious.  Taking a new job because it is a couple of miles closer to the manager’s home is an example of where the person leaving is probably not giving the whole story.

Then there is the question of whether their timing makes sense when someone leaves you on short notice.  For example, when big companies transfer an employee, there is normally a fair amount of notice to allow them to sell their house, move their possessions etc. This means that if someone is leaving you due to a spousal transfer, their family has probably received a fair amount of notice.

If you sense that the person leaving is not being candid with you, there can be several reasons.  They may be unhappy in their job, which could be the result of a toxic co-worker, or you may be a difficult boss.  Understandably, many people leaving for these reasons prefer not to be specific.

Another possibility is that they are running away from the trouble they feel is about to catch up with them.  Embezzlers who think they are about to get caught will often “do a runner,” where they get away from their practice as quickly as possible.  So this is a great time to ask yourself if there has been any event that might give someone who is stealing reason to fear getting caught. 

Examples of things that can frighten a thief are a looming audit by an insurance company or that your spouse is becoming more involved in your practice.  The change that can strike fear into any embezzler is that you have hired a consultant who is about to start working with your practice.  Embezzlers are scared of consultants for a very simple reason – a thief knows your habits and what you scrutinize in a practice and has undoubtedly planned their embezzlement methodology to navigate your scrutiny.  However, the embezzler has no idea what the consultant might examine.  This uncertainty, plus the fact that many consultants are hired to focus more on the practice as a business entity than the practice owner can, creates an extremely dangerous environment for an embezzler.

Almost every consultant has a story about how they stumbled across embezzlement in a practice. They often take the form of an employee who quit more or less concurrently with the consultant coming in to the practice. 

Whenever an office manager or other key employee quits proximate to changes in the office, practice owners need to ask themselves whether there is more to the story.

Do you have questions about your practice?  We are happy to chat.  You can book a meeting using the link below.