Why dental assistants need a performance evaluation ... and the tools you should have by your side

Nov. 16, 2012
Kevin Henry, Dental Assisting Digest editor, says dental assistants should make sure they have performance evaluations yearly, but even more important than that are the six tools you should take with you to help you get the most out of the discussion.
Kevin Henry, Cofounder, IgniteDA.net

During my lecture on “Battling and Beating the Demons of Dental Assisting” that I give at dental meetings around the country, one of the most common demons we discuss is wages for dental assistants. It’s no surprise that no matter where I go, dental assistants believe they’re underpaid for the critical role they play in the dental practice’s success. Guess what? I completely agree. There’s no doubt in my mind after spending nearly 14 years in the industry that dental assistants are often the glue that holds a practice together.

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So, if you’re so important, why aren’t you paid more? Why don’t you get more respect from the doctor and other team members? I believe that part of the answer lies in the fact that no one else in the practice knows everything you do to make the practice steam ahead. Come to think of it, do you even know everything you do each day in the practice? When is the last time you wrote down a list of everything you do in the practice? When you do, I bet the length of the list will surprise you.

Now that you have that list in front of you, request a performance evaluation from the doctor. It’s often uncomfortable to ask for an evaluation, but it’s very important for you to be on the same page as your doctor. In Dental Assisting Digest’s recent article, “The top 10 things you wish your dentist knew,” the answer with the most votes was, “Compensate me well for my efforts. I help build your practice.” Well, what if the doctor doesn’t know everything you do on a daily basis?

Request the evaluation, but don’t tell the doctor you want to talk about your salary. Honestly, that isn’t what the performance evaluation is all about. It’s a chance for you to have an open conversation with the doctor and hear firsthand the things he or she thinks you’re doing right, and also the things you could improve.

If you haven’t had a performance evaluation in the last year, it’s time to schedule one as soon as you finish reading this article. At a minimum, you should have a performance evaluation annually.

Once you have your evaluation scheduled, here’s a list of things you need to take with you:

An open mind — Believe me, there will be moments when you hear something during the evaluation that makes you cringe. You’ll think you’re doing the best job in the world, and you’ll hear that you have some improving to do. I’ve been there, done that. The key is for you to listen to what is being said with an open mind. Don’t react immediately. Think about it and be honest with yourself. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s also during these times that we can grow as professionals and people.

A list of what you do for the practice — Again, if you don’t know everything you do for the practice, who will?Make sure you have your list complete before you start the evaluation.

An attitude of gratitude — The worst thing you can do when you enter into a performance evaluation is think that everything is owed to you. You are owed more money, more respect, more days off, more polishes for your tiara, more, more, more. Guess what? You’re not owed anything. You earn things such as respect and money. They aren’t given to you.Go into the evaluation with an open mind and a thankful heart for the job you have. If you don’t have a thankful heart and don’t like where you work, why are you still there?

A sharp ear and a sharp pencil — Listen closely to what is said and take notes on what you do great and what you need to work on. If things become emotional during the evaluation or a lot is discussed, you might forget some very important points that were made. Take plenty of notes and review them later.

A plan for the finale — Whether your evaluation goes perfectly or has some hiccups, you need to be prepared. In your mind go over the best- and worst-case scenarios that can happen during the evaluation and be prepared. Whether you’re ready to give someone a high five or pound your fist against the wall when you leave, say thank you as you walk out.

A plan for the follow-up — The evaluation will help you and the doctor, but it won’t be nearly as effective if you don’t follow up on some of the things that were discussed in the meeting. If there’s something you need to improve, make sure you schedule a follow-up meeting so you and the doctor can both see you’re on the right track.

Remember this ...
Is your boss really ever going to pay you what YOU BELIEVE you’re worth? Is any boss ever going to pay any employee what he or she believes they’re worth? The answer is no, but it never hurts to remind the person in charge how valuable you are to the team.

About the Author

Kevin Henry | Cofounder, IgniteDA.net

With more than 20 years in the dental publishing industry, Kevin Henry is the former group editorial director for Dental Products Report and managing editor for Dental Economics. Currently, he is the editor-in-chief for DrBicuspid.com. He has spoken to dental assistants throughout the world, in person and through the Dental Assistant Nation podcast series, reminding them of the important role they play every day in their practice. He is also certified as a DiSC trainer, helping dental practices learn how to understand each other better through personality assessments and training.