The Roles of An Employer. When Is Enough Finally Enough?

This has been a very interesting week.

It’s been a time where discussion has turned to the “value” of an employee to an organisation.

How much is someone “worth” as an employee to your business, and where do you draw the line in terms of their pay, or their behaviours?

There’s always the consideration of pay.

Because, despite the fact that we think that an employee is on a good rate of pay, they will always believe that they should be being paid more.

I’ve seen an employee dentist earning 44% of close to a million dollars of billings, go leave that job to buy their own business, so that they could own all that little bit extra that the principal dentist was getting for being a practice owner….

But along with all ownership comes all the other headaches and tribulations of HR, bill paying, rent and marketing….

And of course, the new practice, in this case, was not nearly as productive as the employed dentist role she had had…

So instead of having a walk-in walk-out employed dentist role, she now had a whole pile more headaches of being a business owner, and a lot less income….but at least she owns it, right?

And of course there’s team members.

How much is a team member worth to a dental practice, and when is enough enough?

There’s the point of salaries.

Sometimes it’s easier to just keep increasing team member salaries, to keep them happy, but when is the time to draw the line?

Because, we all know, it’s easier to just give that team member that little bit extra, because, in the back of our mind,  we can make that extra one dollar an hour pay rise back just by doing more dentistry.

And even when you annualize it and add super, it’s really only an extra $2277.60 worth of expense to the business, and we can make that up in just two new patients really, can’t we?

But what if it’s not just only one staff member?

And what if it’s every year that they come around with their hand out?

What if it’s five team members?

Or more?

And although cost of living adds to inflationary forces on their day to day living, we know that economic forces can make business incomes and collections cyclical, can’t it?

So where do we draw the line in terms of pay rates?

One of my clients said to me that there comes a point where the salary of two new staff soon starts to compare favourably with the cost of keeping on one staff who is very highly paid, and he raises a good point.

I was talking with another colleague who just recently parted ways with a very long-term office manager who was on a very high salary.

And the feeling for my colleague was liberating, he said.

Because he said there came a point that, despite the opinion of his peers in the profession about her value, or perceived value; he said there came a point where enough was enough.

And funnily, just over a year on from that departure, the team has rallied, and the office has “magically” gotten by without her.

And that sure happens too.

Because really, no matter how great we think someone is as an employee, there’ll be a time when we have to make that decision to replace them.

And it may not be over pay demands.

We may have to replace that irreplaceable employee because they leave to start a family, or their partner’s work relocates their partner out of town, and we know that that can happen and it’s really nobody’s fault, but the good old practice and practice owner just has to wear it, and soldier on….

What should be done there, then?

As a business owner, as a team, we have to learn to role with the punches….

Despite the fact, through no fault of our own, that it’s been our fault or that we’ve contributed towards that event.

Which brings me to my third consideration.


As a business owner, how many tolerations of the “bending of the rules” should we be bearing?

When is enough truly enough?

And if we allow tolerations, how can we once, after a couple, after several, after many repeat incidences, how can we really just say, “THAT’S IT!”?

After all, one or two were OK, weren’t they?

A couple of years ago I met a dentist whose long term hygienist was being paid in excess of $75.00 per hour, plus benefits, but had also pushed the envelope, or stretched the rubber band to beyond breaking point.

So much so, that there was no alternative for this dentist, because of this Mexican Stand Off, there was no other alternative for him than to call in an industrial relations expert to solve his problem, with an extrication that needed to be performed as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

And despite the cost of calling in the expert, long term, the result of the cleansing process and its cost pales into insignificance compared to the pain and the anguish that the whole office endured because of this hygienist’s behaviours.

The same thing has happened to another dentist I know.

A “valued” employee has racked up in just a short time an inordinate amount of days off due to sickness.

Now, there’s only the first small amount that are paid sick leave, but one more unpaid day off due to illness is OK, isn’t it?

Or two?

Or three?

What about five extra days off, unpaid, due to illness?

Or ten?

Or twenty?

Or more than twenty?

In less than twelve months…

Yes, in hindsight, when should the line have been drawn?

Finally, I ‘ve had a story come across my desk this week about a dental office where about $5000.00 worth of laboratory work has been accidentally sent to the trash..


Five. Thousand. Dollars.

And the dentist has wondered whether he should withhold or reduce the team’s bonus for this month?

Now the dentist in question is a friend of mine.

And he’s posted this tale on an online forum, so there’s been plenty of opinion.

And I’m not sure as to what the correct answer is.

It seems that the lab work for patient A has arrived back at the practice but been accidentally placed in with the tray of patient B, who has just received a similar treatment. And with that, it’s been accidentally all tossed out in the clean up.

Some opinions on the forum have been that the staff should still get their monthly bonus.

Because it appears, that despite the act of carelessness, it was still a true accident, and as such, nobody really should be punished…

But interestingly, although it could really have only been one of two staff members, nobody on the team has come forward and admitted to “chopping down the apple tree”.

Should that lack of closure go unpunished?

Should the team still be rewarded?

On the other hand, discussion online considered that this was not really a $5000.00 piece of equipment, that could be replaced in twenty-four hours, and the world moved on.

This was part of a $20+K case, and there was time factors involved in retaking records and impressions.

Along with patient and customer expectations.

I ask you, at what fee should your patient believe that they will receive a red carpet world class experience?

And would this extra four hours of their time, and the additional trauma to their hard and soft tissues, create a raving fan experience for this customer?

Probably not?

So now the dental office has bought some unwanted negative publicity…

Should that be rewarded with a bonus?

All I can say is that I’m kind of glad I’m not in my friend’s shoes at this point of time, because there’s always going to be a loser in this situation, despite the fact that it was not collectively, everybody’s fault.

But dentistry is a team sport.

If a player misses a tackle that costs his team and it’s owners a premiership, then everybody has to wear the results of one person’s error.

Despite the fact that only one player missed the tackle…

So should my friend, the boss, just cop it sweet as being a part of business?

After all, it’s only really, like a pair of forceps, or a handpiece has gone out in the trash, isn’t it?

Not much different?

Or is it?

Where in this case, would you draw the line?

Is it the employee who is at fault?

Or is it the systems, that allow new lab work to be placed in a position where it can get mixed up and thrown out?

Was the system not adhered to?

Was there even a system?

And who takes ownership of the breakdown of process here then?

Being a business owner is certainly a minefield of possibilities and responsibilities.

There are, as I’ve just laid out, a myriad of possibilities of things that can happen that can take us off our charted course.

You’d have to wonder whether sometimes it might just be much simpler to be the employed dentist who hangs up his drill at the end of the day, and so too, hangs up his responsibilities…

Until he sees that first patient tomorrow…

Is his life sometimes easier?


The Ultimate Patient Experience is a simple to build complete Customer Service system in itself that I developed that allowed me to create an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb. If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

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