The biggest mistake dentists make: Keeping staff members who are poor performers

If you have a team member who is a chronic poor performer in your dental practice, it’s time to address the issue, says Dr. Roger Levin. Here's how.

Based on his extensive experience with dentists over the past 30 years, Dr. Roger P. Levin has authored a new book entitled The 31 Biggest Mistakes Dentists Make. His premise is simple. As he says in the introduction, “We can learn from our mistakes. But isn’t it better to learn from other people’s mistakes?”

Following is an excerpt from the book.

Mistake #18: Keeping staff members who are poor performers

Most people don’t like confrontation and will do almost anything to avoid it. Unfortunately, as practice owners, dentists must address poor staff performance. If they choose to ignore it, the problem doesn’t go away. In fact, it worsens.

Do you want to spend your career tolerating poor performance? Of course not. If you did that, you’d end up hating what you do and creating a high-stress, low-profit (or no-profit) practice that would cost you millions of dollars in lost production and profit over 20 or more years.

Another big mistake: Relying on your accountant for your vision

I should explain at this point that Levin Group’s consulting philosophy is to help every team member in our client practices succeed. However, there’s a very small minority of team members who don’t want to succeed.

Read more, including how to deal with this situation, on page 2...


The worst offenders are those with bad attitudes who demoralize the rest of the team. In other words, it is not a lack of technical competency but rather some deficiency in their interpersonal skills. I also believe most of these people are aware of these shortcomings and have no desire to change them.

One new Levin Group client had the same office manager for 10 years. In that time, most of the staff had turned over three times. The office manager was a disaster - short-tempered, critical and obnoxious. While she was sweet and nice to the doctor, she terrorized the rest of the team. Many patients also found the office manager’s temperament and personality unacceptable and simply switched to other practices.

The high rate of turnover caused tremendous disruption in the office, including low morale and poor customer service. Over the 10 years the office manager was with the practice, I estimate the practice had probably lost $2-3 million in revenue due to her negative impact.

Another big mistake: Living above your means

At Levin Group, we have seen numerous such examples of poorly performing team members causing significant damage to a practice. Many dentists are unaware of or don’t want to deal with the issue, but as the CEO of your practice, you have to make the tough decisions. If you have a team member who is a chronic poor performer, it’s time to address the issue.

Another big mistake: Not setting goals

What are the next steps?

Inform the employee that there is a problem with her performance. Offer specific training to correct any deficiencies. Document her performance over the next 30-45 days. Hold a second meeting to review progress. If the improvement hasn’t been adequate, communicate that to the employee. Tell her that her performance must meet specific targets over the next 30 days. If these requirements aren’t met, then disciplinary action will be taken, which can include termination. Such a discussion usually motivates the staff member to make positive changes or leave the office on her own accord.

Editor's Note: The 31 Biggest Mistakes Dentists Make has now been published and a digital download is available here for just $59.

Systems Training: Save $50 on doctor tuition for Dr. Levin’s seminar “Ignite Your Production” seminar in Chicago on May 5. Register with code DPM50 to receive your discount. For details and to register, click here.