2 keys to making dental practice employees happy

July 16, 2013
Why do so many team members feel unappreciated? The way you give feedback can have an energizing affect on your employees. Sharyn Weiss, senior consultant at Pride Institute, goes through some specific ways you can make sure your feedback to your team is motivational and sincere.

Do you think your team members like working with you? Would they say that they get enough positive feedback from you? When was the last time you even asked these questions? One of the very first things we do with teams at Pride Institute is to survey staff about their perceptions of the culture of the practice. Team members are asked: During the last 30 days, has the doctor recognized you for doing a good job? Too many employees indicate that they are unsure or unsatisfied. How can this be? After all, most dentists know enough to say “thank you” or “good job.” So why do so many team members feel unappreciated?

RELATED |Linda Miles shares five thoughts every team member should know

Key 1: Don’t confuse praise with feedback

There is nothing wrong with thanking a team member. But “thank you” won’t feed your employee’s soul, and it doesn’t necessarily lead to a repetition of good performance. The employee might not even know what she is being thanked for doing. And thank you is so generic, it is meaningless. “Good job” is also problematic for similar reasons with the added bonus that it is also patronizing. You tell a child or pet that it has done a good job. It’s not really appropriate to say that to an adult professional.

RELATED |Five Keys To Effectively Communicating Appreciation to Your Colleagues

So what can you say that is motivational and sincere?

  • If you must say “thank you,” then be specific. “Thank you, Sandy. Today we met our goal, and we did it by following the ideal day templates we developed. Today was balanced for all of us.”
  • Link the employee’s actions to a measurable and specific goal if you can. “I heard what you said to Josh yesterday about his home care and that totally matched the line in our practice’s philosophy that talks about educating our patients.

Key 2: Balance your feedback

Too many dental practices seagull management: circling around and around employees occasionally swooping down on an individual to leave a nasty deposit. You need to balance your feedback between reinforcing and change-oriented messages. After all, you don’t want employees to flinch every time you enter the room.

  • Give one type of feedback at a time. Too many dentists are afraid of hurting their employees so they soften their change-oriented feedback with praise. This is called a praise sandwich — hiding the real message between slices of praise. It’s confusing for the recipient and it dilutes your feedback.
  • Use the napkin method of giving feedback. One of our Pride doctors realized that she would often reflect on the day’s happenings while eating lunch. She began noting the behaviors she wanted to reinforce on a napkin. This would remind her to give her feedback directly after lunch and to support her memory, she put the scraps of paper in the employee’s file for reference when she did her annual performance appraisals.

The way you give feedback can have an energizing effect on your employees. Take the opportunity to deliver feedback that is motivational and sincere.

If you are ready to take your practice to the next level with Pride Institute’s proven methods, contact us today at (800) 925-2600 or email us at [email protected].

Sharyn Weiss serves a dual role at Pride Institute as the curriculum writer and a senior consultant working directly with dentists and teams. She is the co-author of Take Pride in What You Pay, Meetings with Pride, and the Building Blox series for orthodontists.