Do Performance Reviews Threaten Your Team Relationships?
Starting the new year with performance reviews? Dreading it? Take a fresh look at your system and consider making some changes.
When giving a performance review to a team member who is in a subordinate position, but who is also instrumental in making your day more pleasant because of their cheery personality, it becomes difficult to give “tough” feedback regarding their weak areas. Perhaps the dental assistant who is agreeable, easy to work with and goes the extra mile for the patient is also the one whose tray isn’t prepared with the correct instruments and supplies and must leave the treatment room several times to retrieve articles that should be there. The issue is that people skills and organizational skills require two different skill sets, both being necessary to orchestrate the perfect day in a dental practice.
If only the always-prepared and always-efficient dental assistant also had a warm and caring personality. Is it possible to have it all in one person? Yes, but it is not always easy to find because different personality traits are necessary to be focused on business tasks versus focus on the social aspects of interpersonal relationships. See
I recall hiring a very efficient dental assistant to work with a dentist who needed someone extremely organized and on top of things. The assistant was brilliant in her position and could do the work of two people, however, the doctor was not happy with her personality. “I wish she was more bubbly and cheerful”, said the dentist. Their disagreements over her personality eventually led her to give notice and look for work elsewhere.
Performance reviews have been part of the dental office “human resources” structure for decades, and for years have been considered reflective of the employee’s true work ethic and accomplishments. In my experience, I find them wanting for a better system of measurement. If work task performance was measured separately from personality and temperament, it would be a fairer assessment.
To truly give an honest performance review, you must be witness to the person performing their job throughout the major part of the day. Hearing key interactions between the person being measured and other team members, and of course with patients, is crucial to a fair assessment of the employee’s interpersonal skills.
I once received a performance review from a dentist who, for a week prior to the review, shadowed me and stood within earshot of my desk to hear what I was saying to patients and how I was answering the phone. That observation was the basis of my review for the last year. Lucky for me it was a particularly good week at the desk and I received accolades and a raise.
Part of the issue here is that dentists in small or medium practices are often the ones giving performance reviews to all staff members, whether they work directly or indirectly with them during any given day. The performance review is expected to be from “the boss” because the boss makes the payroll. However, the practicing dentist or dentists in charge often have little contact with the front desk team and have a weak understanding of what the business team accomplishes during the day.
In many practices, the office manager or administrator is responsible for giving performance reviews. This person must be able to properly measure the performance of each position fairly and equally, and measure the performance and attitude of those that work under her/him in the business area of the practice. In this scenario, the dentists are likely asked to weigh in on attitude and personality, and in what way they observed the quality of work of the person being evaluated.
On the other hand, dental assistants are under the direct supervision of the dentist boss most of the day and their work is much easier to measure, both positively and negatively. The dentist can observe the readiness of the dental assistant and the way the dental assistant interacts with patients and other members of the team.
The intended purpose of a performance review is to “enlighten” employees about what they should be doing better, with the idea being that the boss can give an objective assessment. I don’t believe a boss can simply collect metrics, garner a few opinions, and give a score free of emotion, bias, or other sentiment – yet this is what I have observed for decades as standard protocol.
Giving a review to an employee when you do not have an honest way of measuring their performance can cause bitterness, disconnect and employees who feel they aren’t being assessed fairly by their boss. For help navigating through the maze of Human Resources, call us today and schedule a course in Dental Office Management.
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