Your Job Or Your Life? What Does Your Dental Staff Think?

Your staff works at your office because it is a job. Nothing more. Never think that they are just so thrilled to death with their job that they couldn’t imagine a life outside of dentistry. At best, you get most of their attention when they are performing direct activities within the practice. At worst, they are so preoccupied with their own lives that they give you a fractional effort in between checking on their Social Networking status on their Smartphone.

Newsflash. It would not be the end of the world to a staff member if they lost their job. So, don’t think that you can always threaten them to get their attention. Sure, they would hate to have to go to all the trouble that is involved in changing careers, but it could be done. It’s not that big a deal.

On the flipside, many gurus today encourage a management style that involves only rewarding staff for good behavior, known as the “carrot” technique. I have also seen something in my own practice, in the practices of some of my best friends, and some of the most revered dentist’s offices of this day that should spook anyone who thinks that a “carrot only” motivational style will work all the time. It seems that because of unknown factors plus some of the ones I mentioned above, the staff can only be motivated up to a certain point with even the richest of bonus systems. I have some pet theories as to why, but no concrete evidence.

Maybe the staff has an idea in their head that in their wildest dreams their dream job would pay 20 dollars an hour. They might be making only 10 dollars an hour when you introduce a bonus. They love the idea and work like heck to get to that magical 20 dollar mark. Then, something funny happens. They may achieve some minor financial goal of theirs and make a cool purchase, but soon the money increase begins to lose its luster. They might even find a way to blow the extra money on something they don’t even need.

My breakdown is this. Staff person A sees themselves in a certain economic stratus. They have built a good life in that stratus with a certain type of car, house, and certain friends of the same stratus. Now, a money increase from 10 to 20 dollars an hour might get them to the top percentile of their little niche, but it won’t put them into a totally new area. And they wouldn’t want to go there if it would. They probably subconsciously want to avoid the pain of moving up in the world. If you continue to dangle monetary carrots at these people after a while you will get absolutely no more work for the dollars you pay. In fact, the work may go down as the staff person tries to titrate their salary to get their desired effect for as little work as possible.

This is why bonus systems have to constantly be redone, broken apart, and rebuilt. This is why it is so hard for a team bonus to work, too. You see, a large staff is an amalgamation of different hopes, desires, and fears. They all want different things out of life. Money will probably work short term, but it will never give a perpetual desired effect.

More than likely, the best combination is to have some “stick” style management with some “carrot” thrown in to change up things on a periodic basis to include both team goals and individual goals and accountability. Sounds like a real business doesn’t it?

Once you discover the secrets that your staff members are hiding, you can break down the barriers that have sapped productivity and caused squabbling in your practice for so long. One of the greatest findings of Dr. Griffin during his consultation with dental practices has been that once everyone is aware of the few little things that have been nagging at them, they can resolve longstanding issues and enjoy fun, profitable growth to superstar levels. You can get your free CD explaining the 5 most common Staff Secrets at

Posted in Articles, Blog