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Hire slowly and fire quickly

Feb. 24, 2020
Don't hang on to your dental employees longer than necessary. If someone doesn't improve after they've been given proper warning, Dr. Chris Salierno says it's better for the business to cut ties sooner rather than later.
Chris Salierno, DDS, Chief Editor, Dental Economics

I just terminated an employee last week and I feel great. To be clear, the process still stinks; it’s an awkward conversation and I feel bad that someone will be missing income until she finds gainful employment again. But overall, I feel great because I did a positive thing for the business.

Famed restaurateur Danny Meyer wrote an outstanding business book called Setting the Table that is chock-full of advice for the service industry. This man is a master at building a great culture for a business. In one chapter, he discusses how there are two parts to an employee: someone’s technical ability to do the job, and the person’s personality. A great employee scores high on both counts, naturally. But what do you do if a person is lacking in one department? If they’re deficient on the technical side, then you try to train them better. If they’re deficient on the personality side, you fire them. You read that correctly. You fire them.

My former employee was good on the technical end of her job. During a month of working together she learned the intricacies of my procedures and could probably find a spoon excavator in my operatory blindfolded. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, as solid as she was on the technical side, she was lacking on the personality side. She was friendly, to be sure, but there was a certain lack of decorum. Using the occasional expletive in front of a patient, complaining about her ex-boyfriend in front of a patient . . . you get the idea.

I attempted to correct the behavior but, as Danny Meyer taught me, I was not expecting any miracles. I do believe you should give people a chance to understand the culture you’ve created. My partner and I took her aside and found firm but polite ways to discuss how we wanted the patient experience to be free from profanity and personal drama. She said she understood. But, to no surprise, the behavior continued.

And so, we let her go. You can generally teach the technical part of a job, but you can’t teach people how to have respect for others, how to come in on time, how to be friendly, or any other ability that is part of someone’s personality.

So, if you’ve been holding on to a team member that is hurting your office culture, it’s probably time to let the person go. You’ll find someone else and the person you let go will move on to another opportunity that will hopefully be a better fit for their personality. Overall this is a positive thing for you, your business, and for the person you had to fire.

About the Author

Chris Salierno, DDS | Chief Editor, Dental Economics

Chris Salierno, DDS, is the chief editor of Dental Economics and the editorial director of the Principles of Practice Management and Group Practice and DSO Digest e-newsletters. He is also a contributing author for DentistryIQ and Perio-Implant Advisory. He lectures and writes about practice management and clinical dentistry. He maintains a blog to answer patient questions at ToothQuest. Dr. Salierno maintains a private general practice in Melville, New York. You may contact him at [email protected].

Updated Dec. 4, 2020