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Firing dental employees: Dos, don'ts, and how to know it's time

April 19, 2023
Making the call to let someone go isn't easy or pleasant, but sometimes it's necessary. Learn from others who've had to make that call.
Elizabeth S. Leaver, Digital content manager

Firing employees is rarely an easy or pleasant experience. But most bosses have encountered situations with staff where they know it's just not working out.

Here we’ve rounded up some advice and perspectives to help you come out on the other side of this awkward yet common employment situation.

When it’s time to say bye

Stacey Gividen pulls no punches when it comes to her expectations: “I am known to push my staff members out of their comfort zones…If they need help, they need to ask. If they want clarification, inquire. If they need to talk to me about something, my door is always open. Period. Those are not unreasonable expectations.” When those expectations were too much for a new employee who was also causing issues with others on staff, she knew what to do from “experience gained the hard way”: “Yes, I called this person out and yes, that was their last day of working for me. Zero emotion. Zero regrets.”

Make the hard call: Saying bye when it's not working out

But IS it time?

Not all reasons for terminating someone’s employment are cut and dried, but that doesn’t mean it’s not what needs to happen. From ignoring established processes to the situation being just a bad fit, here are some other ways an employee can be a negative influence that may require you to make the tough decision.

Moving on: 4 reasons to terminate an employee before damage is done

Hire slowly, fire quickly …

Chris Salierno, former editor of Dental Economics, describes feeling “great” after firing an employee. It’s not that he was callous or uncaring about the situation—in fact, he says, “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.” He explains that the reason he feels such relief is “because I did a positive thing for the business.”

Hire slowly and fire quickly

… while protecting yourself

At the same time, employers need to be mindful of potential legal violations before letting someone go. While you might feel justified in your reasons, employment laws can make the termination process complicated. As such, this author advises practice owners to “ensure that their employment decisions are justifiable and fully supported by employee evaluations and other documentation.”

It never gets easier: Firing incompetent dental staff

Dos and don’ts

Here, Sally McKenzie details the steps involved in letting an employee go that can make the situation as painless as possible for everyone involved. Among the not-to-dos: Don’t apologize. “You might feel bad for having to let someone go, but remember you’re doing what’s best for your practice and the rest of the team. Never apologize or say something like, “I know how you feel,” or “I don’t want to do this.”

Dos and dont's of firing someone from your dental practice

Not fired, but should have been

This author details an experience she had as a patient in which she was not only mistreated by the staff member; the dentist-boss also did nothing to ease the situation. In such a case, she says, “That means protecting the business and protecting the patients. That means taking a stand and not allowing insulting behavior to happen. If you can’t do that as a boss, then maybe you shouldn’t be the boss.”

A plea to fire that awful dental employee

About the Author

Elizabeth S. Leaver | Digital content manager

Elizabeth S. Leaver is the digital content manager for Endeavor Business Media's dental group. She has a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston and many years of experience working in niche industries specializing in creating content, editing, content marketing, and publishing digital and magazine content. She lives in the Boston area; you can reach her at [email protected].