3 ways to handle an unmotivated employee


Unmotivated employees can bring down a whole team, so addressing the problem quickly is important.

Motivated employees are ones who love taking on a new idea and running with it. They are ones who are always looking for ways that they can contribute and help the office grow. If our entire teams could be made up of employees like this, every dentist and office manager would be happy to go to work each day.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Inevitably it happens that, either consistently or sporadically, a team member pushes back or is not as motivated as others on the team. Sometimes these team members were previously motivated but have lost that quality over time.

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This issue can be made worse by the fact that dental offices tend to not run like most other businesses, with clear behavioral expectations and a hierarchical structure. Instead, many dental offices run more like a “family” than a business. This is fine when things are going well, but when things need to change or improve, simply “managing” a disgruntled family is not going to usually fix the problem.

The real solution is to identify unmotivated employees as quickly as possible and deal with them on an individual basis, before their lack of motivation has a chance to infect the rest of the office.

Continue to the next page for three suggestions about how to help that one employee find their motivation...


1. Talk with them privately about it

Many times, people don’t realize what they are doing or how much it affects office morale. In this case, just having a conversation regarding the issue is enough to get them headed in the right direction. Be sure to provide actual examples of times they seemed to get in the way of an idea or when they did not really move on something when you expected them to. Find out from their perspective if they feel that they have some reason that they are holding back, and see if you can help them find a better way to show their motivation and become more of a team player.

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2. Help them understand the “why”

For most people, understanding and accepting the reasoning behind a specific task is a huge motivator for doing well on that task. It’s too easy for members of a dental team to get annoyed or overwhelmed by all the little tasks that have to get done, and they can lose sight of the bigger picture of why each task is vital for the office and our patients.

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When you talk with an unmotivated employee, make sure they understand the big picture of why each assigned task is so important. You can also address this in a bigger way by doing ongoing education for the whole team about why procedures and changes are important for patient health and office sustainability.


3. Make it clear what’s at stake

Sometimes there’s one employee who just can’t seem to step it up as needed, even after one-on-one support and office-wide education. In that case, it might possibly be time to make it perfectly clear for that one team member what is at stake for them personally.

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That person is being paid to do a specific job for your office, and part of the expectation of that job is to contribute at a certain level. In exchange for their contribution, they receive a stable work environment, a good paycheck, dental care, benefits or whatever else your office offers your employees. Remind them that you do not want to lose them as an employee; however, if they do not figure out a way to get more motivated and contribute at the expected level, they may not make it in this position long-term.

This discussion will usually get the person’s attention, and if they have an interest in keeping their job and staying employed, they will find a deeply buried internal motivation to improve.



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