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Two of This OD/Owner’s Employees Left for the Same Competitor

Is he a victim of poaching or just a really bad boss?




AMY WAS TIRED of being stressed at work and decided to call Nina, a friend who used to work at her office and had since moved to Lincoln Eyecare Center, another clinic in town.


Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved and should not be confused with real people or places. Responses are peer-sourced opinions and are not a substitute for professional legal advice. Please contact your attorney if you have any questions about an employee or customer situation in your own business.


Carissa Dunphy has been working in private practice optometry since 2008 and is the founder of Optician Now ( Follow Carissa on Instagram and Facebook at @opticiannow.

“Hey Nina, I’m at my wits’ end,”Amy sighed. “You know how this office runs.”

“Is good ol’ Dr. Neal still expecting the world of the stretched-too-thin employees, draining them dry, and now it’s your turn?” Nina replied.

“Pretty much. I am expected to cover the front desk, the technician, and the optical salesperson all the time but no one helps me. Dr. Neal is definitely taking advantage.” Amy continued, “I’ve talked to him about it before and he said he would try to balance the office tasks better but everything still manages to fall back into my lap.”

Nina responded, “Yeah, I totally understand; that’s exactly what happened to me and why I left. He literally drives each person out of the office.”

“I just don’t believe him anymore because nothing has changed. He’s so rude and awkwardly forward about everything! Anyways, I saw that your clinic is hiring and I’m thinking about applying,” Amy said giddily.


“Awesome!” Nina exclaimed, “I’ve seen what you’re capable of and now that I’ve worked here for a few months I know you could do the job, hands down. I would happily be a reference and recommend you.”

Amy applied for the job at Lincoln Eyecare Center. While she went through the interview process she found that each day it became more and more difficult to work with Dr. Neal. She managed to grin and bear it and was thankfully offered the position. Amy put in her notice and was surprised that her last two weeks went so smoothly and that there was no drama with Dr. Neal.

On Amy’s first day, her new boss, Dr. Brown, welcomed her, “Glad to have you here! Did everything go OK during your last two weeks?”

“Surprisingly so!” Amy responded, “I’m thankful everything went fine.”

Confused, Dr. Brown replied, “I had three separate voicemails from Dr. Neal when I arrived this morning.”

Amy’s delight turned to disappointment.

“The first one asked for a call back. The second had a much firmer tone and he expressed concern about losing two employees to my office.” Dr. Brown concluded, “The third message he accused me of poaching his employees and demanded that I call him.”

Dr. Brown went to her desk to call Dr. Neal. After about 15 minutes she came back out with a perplexed look on her face and provided an update, “Wow. He screamed at me for 10 straight minutes telling me that he will make sure everyone in town knows I’m stealing his employees and how horrible our office is. He also insisted Amy will regret her decision and beg for her job back after our office goes under.”

The Big Questions

  • Are there any “rules” when it comes to hiring employees from a direct competitor in the same town? Should employees be expected not to apply for jobs at close competitors?
  • Was there anything Amy should have done with her former employer to ensure the move was done as smoothly and honestly as possible?
  • Is Dr. Neal’s frustration about his employees leaving his office warranted? What advice would you offer to an employer who was losing employees in this manner?


Diana C.
Chicago, IL

If they mention that a competitor currently employs them, we schedule an in-person interview and ask clarifying questions about their current experience and expectations with us.

She should have disclosed to her employer that she was leaving for another job in the same industry in the same town. Ideally, she could clearly state the reasons why she was transitioning to that office. We experienced this once and encouraged our staff member to negotiate her pay, flexibility, and benefits.

How we hire, onboard, and retain staff changed once COVID hit. Practice owners should be aware of “the great resignation.” Today, employees want three things:

1. Great pay. Meaning, you pay your employees more than your competitor.

2. Paid time off, flexibility, and other benefits and perks.

3. Empowering your staff with education, training, and having their back. Bonus points for having a support system at work, implementing DE&I and acknowledging the importance of mental health issues — and stress at work is a huge deal breaker for most staff in today’s world.

Melissa T.
Branson West, MO

In my opinion, it would be pretty clear to anyone running or owning a practice that there seems to be a problem if an office continually loses great employees to another office. Especially if they go to the same place; take a good look in the mirror as an owner, co-owner or manager losing any employees regularly. Just saying.

Rick R.
Girard, PA

There are no set rules that I’m aware of but there should be some decorum if an office is just openly recruiting. An employee of Dr. Neal would be crazy not to apply elsewhere.

She did everything she needed to do. It wasn’t her fault the atmosphere at Dr. Neal’s office was toxic.

His behavior was a perfect example of why employees leave. My advice would be to take a good, long look in the mirror.

Robert H.
Olathe, KS

There really are no rules for employees, but for employers it’s a good rule of thumb to not directly recruit from a colleague nearby. You cannot control whether they apply, but for private practice I generally do not directly poach.

No, Amy cannot control the reaction of her former employer. It seems she followed the expected standards for giving notice, including sharing concerns over time.

His frustration about employees leaving is warranted, but his response is not. For employers losing team members, take a hard look in the mirror at what is the cause. You can’t be afraid to ask the hard questions (exit interviews are key) — Why are you unhappy? Why are you leaving? — and then do something with that to improve culture, pay, benefits, engagement, etc. We may not like it, but if you do not adapt to the surrounding market and meet employees where they are in today’s market, you will continue to lose out.

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